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It's a strange new world, isn't it?
Florida, the state famous for hanging chads on its voting machines, is the first to mandate lawyers receive technical training.
Perhaps there is no irony in the legal developments, although the hanging chads case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court while the legal profession has been slow to recognize that technology has changed everything in the law. So is it time for mandatory technical training for attorneys everywhere?
Failing to Keep Pace
Robert Ambrogi, who writes about legal tech, says it's time. He recently gave a four-hour presentation for the Florida Bar on legal technology ethics.
"Technology has irrevocably changed law practice in fundamental ways. No one can argue with the truth of that," he wrote for Above the Law. "Yet, five years later, far too many lawyers have failed to keep pace."
Five years ago, the American Bar Association said lawyers have an ethical duty to "understand technology in order to provide clients with the competent and cost-effective services that they expect and deserve." Since then, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have changed to adapt to electronic discovery.
Nobody said lawyers have to be tech experts, although the ethical duty to be competent is clear.
A Little Help, Please?
In adding the mandatory tech training, the Florida Supreme Court said lawyers could retain nonlawyer advisers with "established technological competence in the relevant field" to provide competent representation. That could include cybersecurity and safeguarding confidential information.
In Texas, the state bar foundation is helping lawyers learn technical skills to do legal work. The foundation recently donated $23,000 -- part of more than $1 million in grants -- to a public law library for computers and other equipment. Among other programs, the Harris County Law Library will offer "Excel Essentials for the Practice of Law."
Meanwhile, more than half the states in the country have adopted a duty of technology competence for lawyers. Mandatory technical training could be next, but probably not before the next election.
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