Volume 36

Taking on the Ethical Obligation of Technology Competency in the Academy: An Empirical Analysis of Practice-Based Technology Training Today

by Jessica De Perio Wittman and Kathleen (Katie) Brown

Today’s lawyers must be technologically competent, per Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1. Law schools and law firms were keenly aware of this expectation and summarily responded. While law firms offered more professional development opportunities, law schools began offering various courses focusing on technology skills. These courses have increased and evolved over time as the curriculum has changed with the technology.

First, we present the evolution of ethical requirements surrounding legal technology competency and offer a description of the lawyering competency models most discussed today. We then review data about technology trends at the most innovative law firms and examine curricular offerings in technology or technology-related fields at American Bar Association-accredited law schools. Next, we offer a comparative analysis of multiple empirical studies to determine whether key areas of technology training were reflected in the legal education curriculum and were sufficient to meet ABA ethical expectations. Finally, we recommend solutions law schools may implement to increase technology instruction, services, and infrastructure to meet ethical standards. ABA-accredited schools should implement these recommendations in light of ABA Standard 301(a), the forecasted changes planned by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and the new virtual practice landscape set by the COVID-19 pandemic.


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