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Florida lawyers will have to take three hours of technology CLE courses in 2017 now that the state has become the first to mandate attorney tech training. The Florida Supreme Court approved the rule change last Thursday. The amendments to Florida's Bar Rules also include an addition to the comment on competent representation, clarifying that attorneys may retain a "non-lawyer advisor of established technological competence in the field in question" and emphasizing safeguarding confidential information as part of competent representation.
Will this be a trend that takes off nationally?
The changes affect Florida Bar Rules 6-10.3, on continuing education, and 4-1.1, on competent representation. The CLE changes increase the minimum CLE credit hours from 30 to 33 every three years. Three of those hours must now be in "approved technology programs," while the rest can cover "legal ethics, professionalism, bias elimination, substance abuse, or mental illness awareness."
The Florida Supreme Court also approved the addition of the following paragraph to the commentary on the state's competent representation rules:
Competent representation may also involve the association or retention of a non-lawyer advisor of established technological competence in the field in question. Competent representation also involves safeguarding confidential information relating to the representation, including, but not limited to, electronic transmissions and communications.
The changes also state that maintaining competence requires "an understanding of the benefits and risks associated with the use of technology."
Lawyers aren't usually the first to embrace change and many resent having to meet additional requirements, whether for pro bono work or CLE credits. But attorneys in Florida seem to have been fine with the state's CLE changes.
John M. Steward, the attorney who helped lead subcommittee behind the CLE changes, told the ABA Journal that "Throughout this entire process, we've gotten almost no pushback from lawyers."
"I think everyone recognized that lawyers could benefit from more education," Stewart says, "both when it comes to technology and in general."
The Florida Supreme Court noted the lack of attorney opposition as well. When notice of the rule change was made public, the court wrote, interested parties were directed to submit their comments to the court itself. Not a single person did, showing that if Florida lawyers aren't rushing to meet change, they're not standing it its way either.
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