Technology Prompts Review of Legal Ethics

With more lawyers and  paralegals using laptops, phones and mobile devices to send emails, instant and text messages, the way we deliver legal services has changed. Beyond email, Even with technology, confidentiality and competence are still concerning to the ABA. The American Bar Association at their annual meeting this week will review proposed changes to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct that account for the advances in technology and global legal practice developments.

The Model Rules of Professional Conduct is a resource for lawyer ethics that have been adopted, with some variations, in 50 jurisdictions and guide courts in all jurisdictions in resolving lawyer malpractice cases, disciplinary actions, disqualification issues, sanctions and questions.

The revisions would require lawyers to be not only to keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, but also the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. According to Michael Arkfeld and Stephanie Loquvam in Law Technology News, this reaches beyond email to law practice management software, digital dictation software, templates and forms documents, legal and factual research tools, such as Westlaw, Lexis, PACER, Google, communication security, access to electronically stored information, preservation of digital evidence, video technology, and courtroom technology.

Arkfeld and Loquvam wrote that the revisions would require lawyers “to have a firm grasp on how electronic information is created, stored, and retrieved. Thus, a “competent” lawyer must understand deleted information, unallocated space, active files,fragmentation,document retention policies, inaccessible storage media, metadata (application and system), audit trails, directories, predictive oding virtual systems, encryption, and social networking sites — to name a few. All of these technological concepts pertain, and are important, as to “how electronic information is created, stored, and retrieved,” which is relevant to litigation competence.