How Much Tech Knowledge Do You Need to Meet Your Ethical Duty?

A Luddite attorney is not a competent attorney, at least according to the ethical rules. But how much and what type of technology do you need to understand? ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, Comment 8 specifically states that an attorney’s duty of competence includes keeping “abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” Although there’s no direct equivalent of such rule within the California Rules of Professional Conduct, the California rules on competence and diligence have been interpreted to include technological proficiency. Cal Rules of Prof Cond 1.1 and 1.3. See California State Bar Formal Opinion No. 2015–193 (“An attorney’s obligations under the ethical duty of competence evolve as new technologies develop and become integrated with the practice of law”). The duty to understand technology often arises in the contexts of cybersecurity and…

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