For the record, I am not a technophobe, but I sometimes feel like a technosaur. That feeling is not uncommon in the legal field. Until a couple of years ago, most articles about law and technology were about how the legal field is slow to adopt technology.
As much as it might be true that the legal field was slow on the uptake, I think it’s equally true that now we are working hard to make up for lost time. From the use of Artificial Intelligence to conduct legal research to chatbots that help fight parking tickets, technology is, in significant ways, transforming the practice of law.
This emphasis on technology was apparent at this year’s American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Conference in Baltimore. Of the nine programs I attended while at the conference, five were related to technology.
One of the programs I attended was a panel discussion on Technology Competence in Legal Practice: Where Libraries Fit In. The panel of law librarians spoke about instilling their students or patrons with a healthy respect for technology and its growing importance in legal practice.
The academic law librarians spoke about showing students how the (improper) use of technology can run afoul of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Their emphasis was on ABA Model Rule 1.6, Confidentially of Information and the bulk of Rule 7 which relate to Information about Legal Services and how these rules may be violated while using social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. These librarians also discussed teaching students the basics of the types of legal technology out there such as Law Practice Management Software or Document Assembly Software.
County law librarian, Joseph D. Lawson, who served on the panel, is the deputy director of the Harris County Law Library in Houston, Texas. Like the librarians here at the Riverside County Law Library, Lawson probably comes into contact mostly with solo and small firm attorneys. Solo and small firm attorneys are likely to do their own research and prepare documents. Unlike firms where support staff is trained to use legal technology as well as other technology for legal work, most small and solo firm attorneys who are currently practicing did not receive that training in law school.
The Harris County Law Library then posed the question, “where can solo and small firm attorneys learn the legal tech skills they need to practice ethically and stay competitive?”. Their solution is the Legal Tech Institute, which offers CLE focused on technology and other learning opportunities focused on legal technology. The free CLEs (approved for CLE credit in Texas) cover topics like using Excel and Word in the practice of law as well as finding legal forms. Besides CLE classes, the Legal Tech Institute webpage also offers a list of online resources that help attorneys navigate the issues of technology and the law. These resources are not only link to practice management software that may help with the practice of law but also resources that would help all of us keep abreast of the changing law and technology landscape.
I’ve come back from my sojourn to the AALL Conference recognizing that my somewhat technosaur ways must change. If you feel the same, a good place to begin your education is this ABA article on how technology is changing the practice of law. Also please contact us with ideas or suggestions about how we can help you navigate law and technology.