Mass. Moves to Require Technology Competence for Lawyers

For a geek like me, it was big news last August when the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates voted to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent in technology. Specifically, the ABA voted to amend the comment to Model Rule 1.1, governing lawyer competence, to say that, in addition to keeping abreast of changes in the law and its practice, a lawyer should keep abreast of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” (I wrote about this in the context of e-discovery at the Catalyst E-Discovery Search Blog.)

Now, the duty to be competent in technology may be coming to my state, Massachusetts. Last week, the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct published a comprehensive set of proposed revisions to the Massachusetts professional conduct rules. The bulk of the proposed revisions are derived from changes to the ABA Model Rules based on the recommendations of the ABA’s Ethics 2000 Commission and its more recent Commission on Ethics 20/20, which specifically looked at globalization and the profession’s increased use of technology.

And, yes, there among the proposed changes is the duty of competence in technology. Specifically, comment 8 to Rule 1.1 would say:

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, and engage in continuing study and education.

While I am thrilled to see this change proposed, and believe it is long overdue, it is merely the tip of the iceberg of the extensive revisions the committee has proposed. To read more about the proposed revisions, visit the site, which also includes:

Before it sends the proposed revisions to the SJC, the committee is seeking public comments. Comments are due by Dec. 2, 2013, and should be directed to The Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct, c/o Senior Attorney Barbara Berenson, John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston MA 02108.  Comments may also be sent by email to barbara.berenson@sjc.state.ma.us.