Rule 1.1 Duty of Competency and Internet Research: Benefits and Risks Associated with Relevant Technology

9 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2019

See all articles by Sharon Bradley

Sharon Bradley

Mercer University School of Law

Date Written: November 11, 2019


The world has changed and technology is the primary driver. The legal industry has changed and yet many lawyers still brag about their lack of technology skills. These skills are not advanced programming and software design, rather the competent use of basic office applications.

Technology competence is broad, it is more than data security and e-discovery. It does not mean knowing how to code. Nor does it mean knowing everything about all technology. It is knowing about the technology which is or could relate to what you do for a living. It means knowing what technology is out there that could help your clients and help you be better at performing your job. It means knowing what this technology can and cannot do.

Competency requires a baseline understanding of, and reasonable proficiency in, the technology at hand. Of course, specific proficiencies and competencies will vary between lawyers and practice areas. It also means we should be as inquisitive and knowledgeable about technology as we are the substantive law. When discussing technology competency it is important to distinguish the various types of software that we find in most law offices.

This article touches on duties found in Rule 1.1 (competence), Rule 1.5 (ethical billing), Rule 1.6
(confidentiality), and Rules 5.1 and 5.3 (supervisory responsibilities).

The interconnectedness of the ethics rules suggests we must shift our thinking about the role of technology in delivering legal services. Technology is the mechanism to improve efficiency and provide better client service. Incompetent use of technology when doing legal work is incompetence under Rule 1.1.

Initially created for a Georgia Bar Association CLE presentation.

Keywords: competency; technology

Suggested Citation

Bradley, Sharon, Rule 1.1 Duty of Competency and Internet Research: Benefits and Risks Associated with Relevant Technology (November 11, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Sharon Bradley (Contact Author)

Mercer University School of Law ( email )

1021 Georgia Avenue
Macon, GA 31207
United States
478-301-2638 (Phone)

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