Tech competence: do lawyers have a duty to follow the news?

The early days of this blog featured me harping on the duty of tech competence.  Long-time readers might remember the refrain: competence includes tech competence.

While they might not know it, two of my ethics gurus are Lucian Pera and Catherine Reach.   I consider each a friend of this blog and am particularly thankful for their thoughts and work on a lawyer’s duty to understand the risks and benefits that technology brings to the practice of law.

In the current issue of Law Practice Magazine, Lucian explores the idea that the duty of tech competence includes following the news.  After setting the groundwork by referencing the applicable Rules of Professional Conduct, Lucian writes:

  • “My pitch: As lawyers, we need to be alert to the news of hacks and cybersecurity incidents, whether specifically about lawyers or not, and we should have regular conversations with our tech gurus about them. They are teachable moments.  We need to train ourselves to be in regular learning mode. Because we can learn from others’ experiences and mistakes.”

From there, Lucian uses two cyber incidents – one widely reported, the other less so – to make the argument.  Lucian concludes:

  • “Our ethical obligations amid the dangerous tech environment in which we find ourselves demand that we stay informed about new threats and how we are positioned to protect ourselves.”

I’m no fan of the news and, but for sports news, avoid it on purpose.[1]  It’s part of my personal wellness campaign. Still, I agree with Lucian’s point.  And, as I blogged here, I agree that lawyers can learn cybersecurity lessons from other professions.

I know what you’re thinking: “Mike, that’s all well & good, but how do I stay up on tech news?”

Here’s one way: check out Catherine’s work for the North Carolina Bar Association’s Center for Practice Management.

Following up on Lucian’s article, Catherine posted Staying Up to Speed on Security. Catherine’s post includes helpful “resources to subscribe to or follow to keep up to date with the constantly shifting sands of cybersecurity.” It’s worth the read and might lead to the one tip that saves you from learning this stuff after it’s too late.

As always, let’s be careful out there.


[1] Due to my news blockade, I only learned today – from a lawyer who called with an inquiry – that Taylor Swift did not win this year’s AMA Artist of the Year.  The Rules of Professional Conduct frown upon impugning judges’ integrity.  Alas, there can be no other explanation!