The Intersection of Technology Competence and Professional Responsibility: Opportunities and Obligations for Legal Education
Posted: 17 Aug 2021
Date Written: July 25, 2021
Technology has fundamentally changed the legal profession and the delivery of legal services. Lawyers routinely use technology, including artificial intelligence, for legal research, e-discovery, document review, practice management, timekeeping and billing, document drafting, and many other tasks. The American Bar Association (ABA) amended the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 2012 to include an explicit duty of technology competence, and thirty-nine states have adopted a rule requiring technology competence. Further, the ABA adopted a resolution in 2019 urging the courts and profession to address the ethical issues around using artificial intelligence in the practice of law. This essay traces the developing use of technology in the practice of law, examines the ABA’s guidance with respect to the use of technology in practice, and addresses the intersection of legal competence and professional responsibility. Law schools have an obligation to prepare students to be effective, ethical, and responsible participants in the legal profession, which includes technology competence. Further, law schools must establish learning outcomes which provide competency in professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as members of the legal profession, which also includes technology competence. Law schools have many opportunities to prepare students to be ethical, responsible users of technology in practice. Required Professional Responsibility courses and curricula should include the ethical pitfalls and considerations of using technology in practice. Law schools should also address the intersection of technology and professional responsibility in legal writing courses, clinics, and externships.
Keywords: legal technology, technology competence, legal education, professional responsibility
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