Future Law

Florida Supreme Court Adds Technology Competence Rules

florida technology competenceWe’ve said it time and time again. [In fact, I feel as if I am starting to sound like a broken record.] The practice of law is evolving, and as technology becomes integrated into our practices, more states are adopting technology competence rules. The latest state to jump on the bandwagon — Florida.

Last week, Florida became the 25th U.S. jurisdiction to adopt a legal technology competence rule joining many others including Illinois. With the new rule came amendments to the state’s competency rules and its minimum legal education requirements.

Though, it may not have been the earliest adopters, Florida broke new ground, including language not seen before in any other U.S. jurisdiction.

For example, Florida’s new competency rule (Florida Supreme Court Rule 4-1.1) is the first to specifically note work with non-lawyer advisors.

Competent representation may also involve the association or retention of a non-lawyer advisor of established technological competence in the field in question. Competent representation also involves safeguarding confidential information relating to the representation, including, but not limited to, electronic transmissions and communications.

It also added wording similar to that of the ABA Model Rule:

To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, engage in continuing study and education, including an understanding of the benefits and risks associated with the use of technology, and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

Likewise, as previously noted, these new rules not only amended the Florida’s competency rules, but also its minimum legal education standards.

Florida is now the first state to require mandatory technology competence CLE hours in the country.

According to Florida Supreme Court Rule 6-10.3, the state is requiring its lawyers to take an additional three hours of CLE per three year period.

The catch? These three hours must all be directed at technology education. Luckily, Florida Bar members concerned about having another CLE requirement area can access more than 31 hours of free technology credits through the Practice Resource Institute.

John Stewart, the Florida Bar’s Chair of the Board of Governor’s Technology Committee, reaffirmed that it was a no-brainer.

The simple fact is that technology is changing the way lawyers practice. This offers us an opportunity to offer more services to more clients at a better price point, and I suggest it puts Florida lawyers at a national advantage in cultivating business where the business sees the value of technological competence.

The two sets of amendments will go into effect on January 1, 2017.

As more states adopt legal technology competence requirements (and likely, now, continuing legal education requirements), our team at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism will keep our readers in the know.

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