The first rule in the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct requires lawyers to provide clients with competent representation. I’ve long argued that Rule 1.1’s duty of competence includes tech competence.
Last week, the Vermont supreme Court promulgated amendments to Rule 1.1. The amendments add three new comments, including one that makes it clear that, in fact, the duty of competence includes tech competence. As amended, Comment  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 technologygy, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which a lawyer is subject.
As reported by Robert Ambrogi’s LawSitesBlog, Vermont becomes the 32nd state to adopt the duty of tech competence.
Take a look at the picture that Bob uses on his blog:
Don’t confuse the meaning of the new comment. It does not require lawyers to know how to use every new gizmo, gadget, or app. It’s far more practical than that.
For instance, do you understand the risks and benefits of using certain technologies to transmit confidential communications? Or the risks and benefits of mobile payment services? Have you thought about disabling autocomplete? Do you advise clients against being too social?
Also, don’t sleep on the other new comments. As legal outsourcing becomes more prevalent, the new comments provide helpful guidance.
The new comments take effect on December 10.
- Competence Includes Tech Competence
- Competence, ESI and E-Discovery
- CC, Bcc, and a lawyer’s duty of competence
- Encryption and the Evolving Duty to Safeguard Client Information
- Florida Mandates Tech CLE
- The Cloud: What are “Reasonable Precautions?”
- Secure Communications