Here’s How to Improve Your Law Tech Competence

It's your ethical duty.

You might be competent in bankruptcy law or criminal defense, but what about cloud computing and email encryption?

If not, you’d better start learning. After all, your ethical responsibilities include being proficient in both the substantive and technological aspects of your practice.

Close to 40 states have amended Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 (Competence) to add a duty of “technological competence.”

“There has never been a time it was more important for lawyers to have good technology skills,” writes Jim Calloway, who runs the Management Assistance Program for the Oklahoma Bar Association. “The smaller your law firm, the more important this is.”

Read Calloway’s article, “Technology Competence for Every Lawyer,” here.

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7 Ways to Achieve Tech Competence

Here are seven ways to improve your law tech competence. Calloway suggests choosing one area of focus at a time, then moving to another area. All quotations are from Calloway and his article.

  1. The cloud. “[S]toring important information in the cloud is usually a more secure environment than keeping it on the local computer network, particularly a network not monitored daily by IT professionals. There are some differences between the various cloud computing providers. But generally, most accounts with multifactor authentication enabled and a unique, lengthy password will be secure. You may have an Apple iCloud account, Google Drive, OneDrive via Microsoft 365 and a Dropbox account. You may also subscribe to an online backup service with file sharing potential like IDrive or SugarSync.”
  2. Electronic signature tools. DocuSign and Adobe Acrobat are two of the most widely used programs.
  3. Document redaction. “Redaction used to be hard, but now it is simple if you have the right tools. For most lawyers, that will be Adobe Acrobat Professional since they already own it. This is one feature in Adobe Professional not included in Adobe Standard. And make sure everyone uses the redaction tool. Those who just paste black boxes over content are the ones who make the headlines, as those boxes can easily be removed. There are also redaction tool plug-ins to Microsoft Word, like Redact Assistant or freestanding redaction tools.”
  4. Cybersecurity. “Many of the greatest threats from online criminals, hackers and scammers can be greatly reduced by using two tools: 1) a password manager and 2) multifactor authentication.”
  5. Contemporaneous time billing. “Studies have consistently shown that lawyers who record their time daily as they do the work capture a far greater amount of their time than those who try to recreate the billing entries days or a week later. Even if you decide not to bill everything, it’s great to show the client all the time you expended and then indicate what items were given a no charge.”
  6. Legal research. Most state bars offer legal research tools either free or at a discounted price.
  7. Getting the most out of Microsoft Word. This is an easy resource right under your nose that can do everything from designing letterhead and billing templates to creating a Table of Contents for your document.

Source: Technology Competence for Every Lawyer – Oklahoma Bar Association (okbar.org)

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