Is it Wise to Bury Your Head in the Sand? 3 ABA Tech Competence Rules Suggest No!

An Ostrich has good reason to “bury” it’s head in the sand, and not because it’s frightened or trying to avoid something. So unless you’re an ostrich who purposefully “buries” their head in the sand, doing so is risky and can have consequences especially as it relates to your awareness and use of technology in the practice of law.

Robert Ambrogi of LawSites blog fame has been tracking States as they adopt rules for the ethical duty of technology competence. As of March 16, 2017 the number is up to 27.  Both ABA Rule 1.1 and the more recently adopted revised Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) and Comments dated February 17, 2017 have bearing on attorney requirements for technology competence. The latter rule adds real and measurable substance to Rule 1.1 by requiring that CLE courses “provide education on safe and effective ways to use (emphasis added) technology in law practice”.

As the recent blog post Not competent in basic tech? You could be overbilling your clients–and be on shaky ethical grounds points out simply keeping abreast of technology is not enough, rather one should get the necessary continuing education on using technology effectively or risk being in violation of Rule 1.5 which states “Lawyers have an ethical obligation to work in a cost-effective manner and to avoid churning hours.” 

Presumably the ethical obligation to work in a cost-effective manner extends to the work you do using technology. Therein, the danger of burying one’s head in the sand when it comes to keeping abreast of technology and more importantly being effective in the actual use of the technology tools used in the practice of law truly lies!




About Cheryl Niemeier

Cheryl Niemeier is Director of Knowledge & Research Services at Bose McKinney & Evans LLP. Ms. Niemeier received her Master of Science in Library Science from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1986 and her Bachelor of Science in Education from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana in 1981. Ms. Niemeier has held multiple professional leadership positions in local, regional and national library associations. She frequently speaks at professional association conferences and continuing legal education seminars. Ms. Niemeier has authored multiple articles and seminar publications.
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