Gandy Dancers on the Web: How the Internet Has Raised the Bar on Lawyers' Professional Responsibility to Research and Know the Law
64 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2007
Until recently a lawyer's professional responsibility of "ordinary skill" to research and know the law at a level higher than of the general public was not particularly challenging due to the unfamiliarity of the general public with the traditional sources of legal materials. However, emerging trends in federal policy are promoting increased public access to government and legal information on the Internet.
This article argues that the extent of information available on the Internet, the degree of public access to that information and presumed or constructive knowledge of what is in the public domain challenges the traditional assumption that lawyers are more competent researchers than the general public and will substantially elevate the minimal level of a lawyer's professional responsibility to research and know the law. The standard of care in negligence actions for legal malpractice will increase correspondingly.
Unless lawyers and law schools rise to that challenge, the profession will lose control over the standards by which legal services are evaluated and the Internet will have transformed the minimal standard of professional competence in legal research from that of the ordinary lawyer to the higher standard of the "intelligent layman".
Keywords: legal ethics, professional responsibility, electronic research, legal research, internet, websites, malpractice, public information, public domain, government information, professional competence
JEL Classification: K10, K13, K23, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation