As the practice of law becomes more reliant on technology to increase efficiency, the average lawyer may be disadvantaged by not knowing which products and services are best for his or her practice. Combine the lack of knowledge with the increasing number of states that have instituted a version of the ABA Model Rule comment that specifies a duty of technology competence, and there's a large gap to fill when it comes to making sure lawyers know what they need to function effectively and safely.
"Technology is an area that many lawyers know they should know something about, but most lawyers know little about it," says Kevin Ryan, executive director of the Monroe County (N.Y.) Bar Association. "They went to law school to be lawyers, not computer geeks."
Bar associations that want to bring their members up to speed often find that the scarcity of lawyers who are knowledgeable about technology leads to a limited field of speakers within their ranks who have the expertise to teach tech-related programs.
"The roster of available speakers on technology is more likely to contain people who are from the tech industry," Ryan says. Bars generally find it much easier to recruit speakers from within their membership for other, non-tech topics, he adds.
One example of the need to look outside for speakers with tech expertise was when the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York recently made significant changes to its rules, Ryan says. The speaker that the MCBA and other bars invited to explain the rules was a local representative of a company that prepares documents for e-filing with the appellate court.
"He's a lawyer," Ryan explains, "and he's made himself an expert on appellate rules. We used him because he knows that stuff."