As a lawyer, you’re tasked with ethical and zealous representation of your clients in a way that inspires their trust and confidence. Are you delivering?
If you’re using outdated tools that are increasingly vulnerable to security breaches, frustratingly unstable, and incompatible with newer systems and programs, you’re letting your clients—and yourself—down. Technology is an integral part of how we do our work. That means we need to invest in our relationship with technology, understanding what it offers and leveraging it to the maximum benefit of our clients.
And that means you can no longer get away with using out-of-date software systems. This means keeping current with the latest version of whatever software you’re already running, especially for Windows 7 and Office 2013 users.
It’s about more than convenience. It’s about keeping client information secure from hackers, working with programs that don’t crash or slow you down, and being able to integrate your systems so you’re getting the most from all of them. And it’s a matter of ethical and zealous representation that inspires client trust.
1. Ethical Compliance
The ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct added a duty of technological competence in 2012. Its comment 8 on Rule 1.1 clarifies that lawyers “should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” As of now, 31 states have adopted their own ethical rules about staying up to date with technology. This isn’t just about checking off a box on your bar renewal or completing CLE credits; it’s about effectively using your time and ethically billing your clients. If you’re wasting hours fighting with outdated software or manually doing tasks that are easily automated, is it fair and ethical to charge your clients for that time?
2. Zealous Representation
Outdated software might also be impeding your ability to zealously represent your clients. If your opponent is using the best of today’s technology while you’re stuck in 2009, can you really say that the deck is evenly stacked? And if you can’t keep yourself up to date with your technology, why should your clients believe that you’re up to date on the law?
Everyone says that lawyers resist technology because they’re reluctant to change. But we deal with change all the time. Case law changes from day to day; new regulations crop up constantly, rewriting entire swathes of law (GDPR, we’re looking at you). Change is not the problem. Lawyers’ attitudes about technology—and our ability to deal with it—are the problem. Fortunately, today’s technology is more intuitive and easier to use than ever before, so this is a problem we can overcome once we set our minds to it.
3. Client Trust
If your clients don’t trust you to keep their information safe, they might decide that they can’t trust you at all. They could start to hold key facts back—or just take their information, and their business, elsewhere. We’ve all seen what happens to reputations when a firm suffers a security breach. Updating your software to the latest, most secure versions gives your clients a reason to put their trust in you.
You’ve dedicated too much to building your practice to let outmoded technology drag you down. Updating your software consistently improves its security, stability, and compatibility, plus you’ll reap the benefits of new software features and functions.
The legal profession is overdue to take a hard look at how our technology helps us provide ethical, zealous, trustworthy representation of our clients—or hinders us.