If your comfort level with technology stops at logging into your email account or checking your social media page, you may want to take steps to remedy that, especially if you practice law. While you certainly have enough to do keeping up with the ever-changing nuances of your practice area, technology is fast becoming a critical component in many legal battles. As a result, you may end up facing issues related to ethics or professional conduct if you fail to remain current with the changes in technology.

While the California State Bar does not formally include the duty to be technologically competent in its rules of ethics, you may understand that few legal cases do not in some way involve technology. Additionally, if you fail to understand the types of technology your own law office uses, you may find yourself facing serious allegations that could place your practice and your future at risk.

What should I know?

While it is not necessary for you to have IT certification, you would be wise to know the kinds of technology most common in your area of practice. For example, if you practice family law, you will likely find the examination of emails, text messages and social media accounts is part of your investigation process. Additionally, more attorneys are turning to artificial intelligence to conduct their legal research, and clients may expect this to keep their legal fees down.

The use of the most basic technology in your law practice could potentially place client information at risk, especially if you are not familiar with how to effectively and securely use the technology, for example:

  • How to use PDF documents, especially when redaction is necessary
  • How to generate and remove metadata
  • How to protect client information, including protecting your computers from cyber-attacks and keeping information confidential when using cloud storage
  • How to effectively use courtroom technologies
  • How to utilize e-discovery platforms that comply with the rules of California courts

It is also important that you know as much as possible about the specific technologies your clients use, especially if you plan to address those technologies in court. If you do not understand a type of technology that is relevant to your case, you may not be able to provide your client with competent representation.

You cannot know everything

Because of the complex nature of many aspects of technology, you may face accusations of incompetence that are unwarranted. The question will be whether you made a reasonable effort to stay current with technological advances. When allegations about your professional conduct or ethical behavior arise, you would be wise to seek guidance from someone who understand how much you have a stake.

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