Teaching the duty of competence under revised Model Rule 1.1: “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology”

Ever since I began teaching Professional Responsibility several years ago I’ve suggested to my students that they have an implicit ethical duty to consider how technology plays a role in their law practice.  (Indeed, a student of mine published her recommendation that the Model Rules incorporate a duty to keep abreast of technology advances in the Professional Lawyer in 2010—take a look here.)

The ABA recently incorporated this obligation explicitly into the comments accompanying Model Rule 1.1 Competence.  Comment 8 now provides:

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.

In the spirit of the ABA’s recognition of the importance of technology to law practice, we will be revising Chapter 3 of the casebook to cover not only finding and billing clients, but more broadly the business, technology, and marketing of legal services.  Everything that current adopters appreciate about the existing Chapter 3 will remain, but we are shortening some of the excerpted cases and articles to make room for new content addressing ways lawyers can leverage technology in delivering legal services and in reaching clients.  Possible topics may include virtual law practice, use of social media tools, cloud computing, and links to innovative examples of technology and law.  We welcome your feedback about this change.  Do you agree that technology should be addressed in this way within the casebook?  What other information about technology would you like to see in the casebook or in the teacher’s manual?

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