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3 Things Lawyers Should Know to Be Tech Competent

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

There's tech savvy and then there's tech competence. While most lawyers would prefer to be the former, sadly a majority of us only fall into the latter camp. Fortunately, the bar for minimum tech competence is pretty low.

Courts generally only require that attorneys have a working knowledge of how to use email, navigate a web browser, and upload documents from their computer to the court's e-filing system. For some attorneys, staff can be trained to do all these tasks, but in our modern times, clients might not be so accepting of a lawyer that can't even check their own email.

Here are three important things to know about tech competence for lawyers.

1. Ethical Obligations for Lawyers in the Modern Era

It used to just be that there was no excuse for a lawyer to not have an actively monitored email. But now, failing to have adequate cybersecurity could very well amount to malpractice, or at least a breach of your duty to your clients (if, or more like when, you get hacked).

Minimally, you need to have enough knowledge to cooperate with opposing counsel, preserve and identify electronic evidence, supervise those that report to you, and implement adequate cybersecurity.

2. Is It Fair Game to Use Your Smartphone Against Opposing Counsel?

If using your smartphone is going give to you a bit of an edge over opposing counsel, or help your case, then using it is probably going to be okay. However, if using it involves conduct tantamount to spying, or moral turpitude, then you might want to think twice about your obligations as an attorney.

The internet is great, but some sources are just not worth staking your reputation on. For example, Wikipedia and other "wiki" sources can often be edited by almost anyone, meaning that the legal explanation you just relied upon could have been edited by an overzealous 1L in a failed attempt at humor.

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