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Call for skills update

Call for skills update

By Fabian Horton

Innovation Technology 

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Lawyers need to keep up with the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology in legal practice.

Over the last several years we have seen a remarkable increase in the amount of technology being used in the field of law. In fact, as the wholesale digital disruption of society continues, it is becoming increasingly difficult to operate without the use of technology. From artificial intelligence to electronic signatures, it seems that not a space is left in the legal arena where technology is not having an impact.

The need to understand technology is now an important part of legal practice. The Oklahoma lawyer who permanently lost his right to practise in the US Bankruptcy Court is a case in point. The lawyer’s acknowledged “lack of expertise in computer skills” included an inability to navigate the technology required to practise in the area, specifically e-filing. The lawyer failed repeatedly at proper electronic submission, even with assistance from court staff and after being given “homework” by a judge.

The American Bar Association has acknowledged the importance of understanding technology in practice. It has included in their Model Rules of Professional Conduct a duty that lawyers be competent not only in the law and its practice, but also in technology. Specifically, the ABA Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1 states:

“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, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject”.

It is now clear that not understanding technology is no longer an option for practising lawyers.

The next step, therefore, is to gain an understanding of what is meant by technology competency and how this translates in the legal professional. To look into these issues, the LIV Technology and the Law Committee has formed a group to specifically consider the area of technology skills and standards for lawyers. The aim of this group is to:

  • gain an understanding of how technology is used within the profession
  • determine the range of technology skill levels that are required to competently undertake required tasks
  • obtain the profession’s perspective on how to gain and measure technology competency.

In coming months the Technology and the Law Committee will be interacting with the profession as part of our investigation into technology competency. This will include surveying the profession along with some direct consultation. We encourage all members of the profession to give these issues some consideration. No matter where you sit on the technology competency spectrum your experience and insights are invaluable.

If you would like further information in relation to the Technology and the Law Committee technology competency project, please contact Karen Cheng (kcheng@liv.asn.au or ph 9607 9522).

If you would like to assist the LIV Technology and the Law Committee in better understanding technology competency in the legal profession, please consider the following:

  • think about how technology impacts on your practice
  • consider what type of technology skills you believe are required to competently navigate your practice area
  • reflect on the skills you would like to gain to help you take advantage of what technology has to offer.

Please liaise with the Technology and Law Committee if you have questions about technology and your practice or practice area.

If you're interested in finding new ways to update your skills and prepare for the future of the legal profession, register for our half day conference, Using Technology for Business Success, on Tuesday 28 March.

Fabian Horton is co-chair of the LIV Technology and the Law Committee.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by commentators are not necessarily endorsed by the Law Institute of Victoria Ltd (LIV). No responsibility is accepted by the LIV for the accuracy of information contained in the comments and the LIV expressly disclaims any liability for, with respect to or arising from any such views.

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