What Every Lawyer Should Know about Practicing Law in the Digital Age.

In 2017, 77% of Americans own a smartphone, growing from 35% in 2011. Mobile Internet consumption has surpassed desktop. For many people, their only connection to the Internet is through a smart phone. As we all seek to cram more hours into the day, use of a mobile device to access the Internet while “on the go” has grown.

Mobile-friendly websites should be a given in this day and age. Your website should appear correctly in a mobile phone browser—called a responsive site.

The challenge is that with so many different phone brands and browsers, rendering a page—or more importantly filling out a form—may be difficult or impossible on a mobile browser. Unfortunately, you may not even know it because it is nearly impossible to check all the phone/browser rendering possibilities.

69% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies whose mobile sites or apps help them easily find answers to their questions. 1 in 3 smartphone users has purchased something from a company or brand other than the one they intended to because of information provided at the moment they needed it. Even better, mobile apps ensure a consistent experience across most devices. An app from a trusted provider offers better security than a web browser.

Texting, Facebook, blog comments and the casual proliferation of opinion and personal information have made it easier to access sensitive information than it ever has been. Lawyers are not going to move their clients “off-line.” We can, however, ensure that our communication with them is sufficiently protected.

James Antonakos of the National Cybersecurity Institute explains encryption as the process of taking data that is readable and making it unreadable to humans. Encryption protects your firm and clients from hackers. In the event that a hacker has broken through the many lawyers of firewalls and passwords, encrypted data will be un-viewable.

Gone are the days of elective competency with technology in the practice of law. For many years lawyers have been slow to adopt and use new technology.

Email, e-filing, and social media have changed that.  26 states have adopted in some form ABA Model Rule 1.1 comment 8. (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.)

In 2012 the ABA added Technology to Competency requirements, Rule 1.1 (8) reads:

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.

A California Bar advisory opinion quoted the rule and went as far as to opine that technological ignorance “may result in violations of the duty of confidentiality, notwithstanding a lack of bad faith conduct.”

There are far more opportunities for the legal profession in the digital age than challenges. Improving the client experience and developing new relationships should be the focus of legal technology providers. Knowing the issues can help you make better decisions regarding the implementation of new technology in your practice.

Jason Velez
Jason Velez is a personal injury and immigration lawyer and the founder of 1Law, an affiliation of 150+ US lawyers.

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