More on Tweeting Professional Responsibility and ABA Revisions to MR 1.1

My post on using Twitter to teach Professional Responsibility generated a few comments and questions, so I thought it was worth taking them up in a second post on the topic.  (For those of you who missed it, I’m projecting a large, live-discussion feed on the wall of my classroom in PR this semester–more here.)

I’ll start with a question Monroe Freedman asked, which gets to what I think is an important debate sparked by the ABA’s latest revisions to the Model Rules: “I’m not a twit, or use facebook or linkedin or utube or whatever else, because I find them a waste of time and an invasion of privacy, and I’m not willing to agree to their terms. Does that make me incompetent?”

In other words, how much technology must lawyers understand and, importantly, adopt to satisfy our duty of competence under the Model Rules?

Here’s what the revised Comment 8 to ABA Model Rule 1.1 has to say about it:

Maintaining Competence.  To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

Does this mean all lawyers must use Twitter?  No.  But that’s not why I’m teaching with this tool in my PR class.  My point is that lawyers do need to keep up with relevant technology, which includes thinking about how to use new technology tools–such as social media–in our law practices. Twitter is an example.  (I’m also hoping that this experience will get students thinking about how to use social media in building a professional reputation as well as to cultivate a client base.)

I anticipated that some of my students might share Monroe’s privacy concerns, and I offered an opportunity to opt-out.  I heard from a handful of students (out of a class of 85) that they preferred not to open Twitter accounts, so I decided to try a different platform.  Josh Blackman tweeted me the suggestion of TodaysMeet.com, which he uses in his classes.  TodaysMeet gathers less information about users–more on their privacy policy here–and is viewed only by others in the room. I used TodaysMeet on the second day of classes–students with privacy concerns about Twitter were happy, but others still wanted the ability to communicate with the class and the outside world simultaneously.  Going forward I’ll probably use a combination, requiring participation on TodaysMeet days and allowing for optional participation on Twitter days.

Others asked about how I encouraged participation–I treat it like regular class participation for cold-calls and volunteers.  As for logistics, I have a separate laptop and projector for the live-discussion feed, projected next to the screen with my PowerPoint slides.  I’ll be adding new kinds of technology for students to experiment more in future classes…and will report back here.  (Cross-posted at the Legal Ethics Forum.)

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