Duty to Stay Hip – Compelling Use of Modern Technology

Will ignorance of or the failure to adopt certain technological tools, such as e-discovery,  be considered an ethical violation in the future?  An interesting discussion of the implications of this issue can be found in A Discovery: Study tech-aided review before it’s an ethics issue by Joe Dysart.  It is also important to note that three recent cases considered mandating technology-assisted review of discovery and that the American Bar Association’s House’s changes to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct require attorneys to stay up-to-date on the risks and benefits of current technology.
Mr. Dystart points out that one way an attorney can become quickly exposed to or acquainted with e-discovery applications by checking out eDJ Tech Matrix (eDiscovery Journal), which is an online forum designed to  keep attorneys updated on  available e-discovery tools.   eDJ also allows users and competitors to comment on these programs, as well as allowing attorneys to search for e-discovery solutions.
In another of his articles titled Mind Meld: How to understand legal minds to defeat tech fears, Mr. Dystart mentions Bruce Olson, a litigator and president of Onlaw Trial Technologies in Appleton, Wic., who  argues that attorneys are more resistant to technology than people in  other professions.  Olson claims that one of the reasons for this stubbornness is that attorneys often do not recognize the fact that technology can greatly increase productivity.
Mr. Olson, in conjunction with Daniel J. Siegel, an attorney and president of Integrated Technology Services, have some helpful advice for fellow attorneys when it comes to using technology:

    • Attorneys should be certain that digital documents are as secure and stable as hardcopy documents.
    • It may not always be the senior attorney who is the most resistant to  new technology.  Interestingly, it is sometimes the case that younger attorneys resist new methods and procedures.
    • Attorneys should embrace new technology as (yet) another competitive skill that must be mastered.  An attorney who is open-minded to adopting new technology will have an advantage over one who is not.
    • Breaking up a major project into small steps could make the process easier.
    • In cases in which the senior attorney(s) is resistant to new technology, the junior attorney(s) on staff often adopt this resistance.  Thus, it is important for firms to remain vigilant for this “top-down” problem.
    • Lastly, attorneys should keep in mind that not all efforts to implement new technologies will be feasible or practical.  Attorneys should carefully consider what is best for their firms, and adopt new practices accordingly.