Tennessee Adopts Duty of Technology Competence

By: Miles Martindale

 

On July 11, 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. The TBA proposed to amend selected portions of Rule 8 in light of similar revisions to the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct that were adopted by the ABA’s House of Delegates in August 2012. On March 6, 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued an order that adopted certain amendments to Rule 8, whichwere effective immediately. Among the amendments, the Order approves adoption of the language of Comment 8 of ABA Model Rule 1.1 pertaining to technology competence, which makes Tennessee the 27th state to adopt such a rule. Tennessee’s Rule 1.1, Comment 8 (formerly Comment 6), now provides: 

“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.” 

The Duty of Technology Competence update does not change the duty to maintain competence under Rule 1.1, it merely clarifies that maintaining technological competence is part of that duty. Thus, lawyers can no longer remain  ignorant of technology and still claim to ethically serve their clients’ needs. Technological competency does not require all lawyers to become experts in field of legal technology, and no state has published a list of technology programs that lawyers must learn or skills that lawyers must possess. However, this duty does require lawyers to stay abreast of legal technology developments and requires a baseline understanding of, and reasonable proficiency in, modern legal technology.

Technology is becoming increasingly important in the business and practice of law. This amendment is an acknowledgement that technological competence is a necessary requirement in today’s legal environment. A lawyer’s fundamental duty has always been to provide competent representation to her clients. As times have change, so has the view of what it means to provide competent representation. Competency no longer simply refers to a lawyer’s substantive knowledge of the law combined with experience and the ability to adequately represent a client. Lawyers who refuse to keep up with modern technology now risk violating ethical obligations and becoming obsolete. Meridian Law is committed to staying on the cutting-edge of legal technology and incorporating technology into our practice to provide efficient and cost-effective legal services to our clients.