Technology advances are as much a part of law practice these days as depositions, case law research, and briefs. Like with any business endeavor—or life in general—technology is essential for any lawyer in any size firm and in any practice concentration.
Indeed, it is a professional and ethical responsibility to keep up with changing technology and adopt new systems and processes when not doing so would cause you to fall too far out of the loop to be able to serve your client effectively. Rule 1.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct requires lawyers to be competent and to maintain that competence over time. Comment 8 to that rule notes that maintaining competence includes staying “abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology…” For instance, lawyers are charged with keeping up to date about changes in the law, these days accessed solely through online resources; if you aren’t using available electronic updates from online case reporting or research services, you are arguably falling below minimum practice standards.
Adopting Technology is Good For Client Care
Besides being an ethical and professional obligation, adopting new technology is good—and, arguably, required—client service and care. If reasonably available technological advances could have helped you to provide more thorough service to your client and you failed to take advantage of that available technology, you may face a claim that you have failed in your professional responsibilities to your client. Claims could range from inadequate protection of client confidential information because of outdated security on a website intake form to missing client instructions because of a failed instant messaging system, to failure to preserve electronic documentation in a readily searchable format leading to inadequate discovery responses, just to name a few.
Adopting Technology Is Good For Business
Additionally, adopting new technology can be very good business. Employing new products that improve efficiency can help you to serve more clients more productively and more accurately. Software that helps to automate certain repetitive functions in your practice (like initial collection of client data, or original generation of essential estate documents or corporate filings) can help to ensure accuracy and thoroughness, while automated calendaring software that allows for accurate deadline calculation and effective alerts can save you from serious problems.
Are You Making The Most of Your Technology?
Despite all of this, however, too often lawyers fail to truly make the best use of the technological tools that are available to them. Either they resist changing to new technology all together, or—more frequently these days—they don’t truly adapt and adopt the new technology so that they get the full benefit of it. Then, because they aren’t using it to its full extent, they become frustrated or disillusioned about the new approach, abandon it, and ultimately derive little to none of its benefit.
Successful institution of technology requires more than just buying and installing the latest or shiniest or coolest new toy. It requires planning, commitment to training, patience, and leadership. To that end, watch this space for several posts regarding these topics.