Future Law

Tennessee Becomes 27th State to Adopt Ethical Duty of Technology Competence

technology competence lawyersSurviving and thriving as a lawyer in the 21st century demands a knowledge in more than just the law. These days, technology has become a standard within law offices across the country.

As the practice of law evolves and technology becomes integrated into our practices, more states are adopting technology competence rules. In fact, more than half of all United States jurisdictions now require lawyers to uphold an ethical duty of technology competence.

As of March 6, 2017, a grand total of 27 U.S. jurisdictions (including Illinois) have adopted some version of technology competency into their rules, most commonly based upon Rule 1.1, Comment 8 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The most recent state to adopt this requirement? Tennessee.

In July of 2016, the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) filed a petition asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to amend Rule 8 of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court. After a lengthy public comment period, and feedback from both the state’s Board of Professional Responsibility and the Knoxville Bar Association were taken into consideration, the Tennessee Supreme Court adopted the TBA’s proposed amendments earlier this month.

Modeled after the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Tennessee’s Rule 1.1, Comment 8, now reads:

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

All changes to Tennessee Rule 1.1, Comment 8 are effective immediately.

As new innovations arise, lawyers are obligated to maintain their knowledge of relevant technology. Better yet, they should stay ahead of the curve. There’s no denying that technology has become part and parcel of the job description for today’s lawyers. So long as the profession continues to embrace innovation, lawyers must continue to work better, smarter, faster, and more efficiently, in turn, improving their service to clients and the administration of justice.

As more states adopt legal technology competence requirements, our team at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism will keep our readers in the know.

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