The Twenty-First Century Lawyer’s Evolving Ethical Duty of Competence

Vol. 22 No. 4


Andrew Perlman is a professor at Suffolk University Law School, where he is the Director of the Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation. He was the Chief Reporter of the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 and is the Vice Chair of the newly created ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services. This article contains the author’s own opinions and does not reflect the views of any ABA entity or any other organization with which he is or has been affiliated.

Just twenty years ago, lawyers were not expected to know how to protect confidential information from cybersecurity threats, use the Internet for marketing and investigations, employ cloud-based services to manage a practice and interact with clients, implement automated document assembly and expert systems to reduce costs, or engage in electronic discovery. Today, these skills are increasingly essential, and many lawyers want to know whether they are adapting quickly enough to satisfy their ethical duty of competence. This short article describes several relevant recent changes to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and identifies new skills and knowledge that lawyers should have or develop.

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