Ethics, Lawyers and modern technology – a recipe for success?
There is a possibility that the Rules of Professional Conduct could be amended to reflect the growing technological advancements being made and adopted within the legal profession. The amendment seems to be that to be able to practice law it will be a requirement that a lawyer be knowledgeable on technology. I wonder what “a lawyer be knowledgeable on technology” actually means?
Within the last decade or more there have been so many technological changes not least of being able to amend documents quickly and very neatly too! There is a downside to some of the technology too especially for those lawyers who are in court all day every day for weeks – who will answer their continuous barrage of emails? Gone forever are the days when you corresponded by post allowing time to get requested documents etc together and move the matter forward not at a snail’s pace but not at breakneck speed either.
The task of research too has changed so much so that the need to sit in the Law Library is now becoming a thing of the past.
One of the biggest changes has occurred in the preparation of a case, particularly the area of discovery. Oh my word! The costs and time now spent on finding and organizing of electronic documents for discovery are quite extraordinary and unless you have a good working knowledge of the various computer programs you have on your PC then you will need to engage a third party to assimilate the information.
As technology moves apace some legal secretaries have been replaced by lawyers who can type or by lawyers who use voice recognition software to produce their documents. Is this what a lawyer is though? Isn’t a lawyer someone who knows the law, interprets it and then advises the client? Where is the technology in that? We all know a trial lawyer needs to be able to think on his or her feet and make the best of sometimes a dreadful set of facts – is there technology around to replace that lawyer?
Why is this rule that a lawyer can’t practice law if he or she is not technologically proficient being introduced?
Let’s face it not every lawyer is a technological geek nor every technological geek a lawyer!
With all the new technology comes the question of cost. Who foots the bill for the new software and the time it takes to train those lawyers on these different software packages? The lawyers themselves that’s who! Many solo practitioners are hard pressed to have the resources to meet these expenses. They need to understand that there is a need to factor in the cost of these changes.
So, on the one hand it’s a good thing to have the technology especially now the courts are becoming more and more electronic in their dealings with lawyers, however on the other hand the costs can be difficult to meet for the not so well off lawyer.
Are these changes in technology which are impacting on lawyers being sufficiently thought through and does anyone really understand how to regulate these changes?
Technology does not make a lawyer a better lawyer. A lawyer’s basic skills will always include the need to be extremely knowledgeable, think fast on his or her feet and have good commonsense and judgment too.
So what happens when the current technology becomes a thing of the past? Will there be the same problems as we have today with the costs of e-Discovery? Will a good lawyer who doesn’t keep up with new technology create an ethical issue for themselves?
There seem to be more questions than answers…