Browse Archives | Subscribe | Home

Ed Poll
  Week of March 2, 2010

Are You Committing Technology Malpractice?

My friend and colleague Carolyn Elefant, whose blog is a major resource and voice for solo practitioners, recently made an observation that I found striking. Carolyn stated that in working with solos, she has seen first-hand that too many are behind the technology curve, even to the point of not using email or not keeping electronic files of client records. "If these lawyers want to sell their practices, the value is going to be diminished if a new lawyer has to invest in the IT to get the practice up to speed," Carolyn observed.
There is an even deeper dimension to the way such lawyers diminish the value of their practice - by putting them in danger of a malpractice accusation. One of the Rules of Professional Conduct requires that a lawyer be competent to handle a given matter, measured as the standard of care in the local community. When you face lawyers who are significantly more sophisticated in the use of technology, it defines the standard of care against which you are measured. If you don't use technology effectively for trial support, case management and the like, you may be perceived as willfully less competent than your competitors. And that's malpractice.
It the past I have surveyed law firms regarding their technology practices, and found that while the majority of large law firms upgrade their computers and software every two to three years, many small firms and sole practitioners go as long as six years between upgrades. They cite cost, time to learn and implement the new technologies, and lack of certainty that new technology will increase efficiency and work quality. And this is before the Great Recession has led to more widespread deferral of purchases. None of these reasons will likely protect a firm against a client who alleges that outdated technology contributed to incompetent representation.
The ABA's Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1, which deals with lawyer competency, does not include technology as an element in the required standard of care either in the rule itself or in the commentary on it. (Though it used to in years past.) Neither do many state rules. However, I regularly write for the Canadian Bar Association, and the commentary on Chapter II of the CBA's Code of Professional Conduct (also dealing with competency) states: "The lawyer should also develop and maintain a facility with advances in technology in areas in which the lawyer practises [sic], to maintain a level of competence that meets the standard reasonably expected of lawyers in similar practice circumstances." Lawyers in any jurisdiction of the United States would do well to keep that injunction in mind - for the sake of their clients and of their own practices.

Ed Poll

Following the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and facing a sea change in clients' demands and expectations, law firms must respond and adapt quickly and effectively. Law firms must choose the kind of law practice they will be; the marketing and business development tactics they will use; the overhead that is critical to their functioning; how to price, bill and collect for services; and how to manage the cash flow cycle.
Success lies in identifying and capturing the right kinds of clients, providing the services those clients need in ways that add value, and ensuring prompt payment and the ability to grow profits. This book, based on the experiences of Ed and his clients over 20 years of coaching and consulting, provides the keys to successfully thriving in the new era.
Available for Pre-Sale
Ships in February 2010
Pre-Sale Price: $99
Regular Price: $120
Call or Order Online at:

LawBiz Forum
Ed Poll
Ed Poll

Personal Commentary
The Olympic competition has been remarkable. One of the great stories of any such competition is the athletes failure and strife, yet the athletes pick themselves up to continue the competition...and in many cases, go on to reach the highest of medals and rewards for their efforts.
So, too, despite serious economic travails faced by many in our profession during the last three years, it's time to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and move to accept the many opportunities right in front of us. When there is change, there are opportunities. Call me if you have difficulty seeing them and need another perspective.
Best wishes,
Ed Poll
Please use the URL below to link to this issue:

Ed Poll
Ed Poll

What Readers Are Saying...
"No matter how you slice it, there is no substitute for wisdom and experience. Ed Poll has demonstrated both in this eyeopening book about the essential elements of running a profitable law practice. He provides practical wisdom along with simple ways to adopt and incorporate best practices for each. After explaining the pros and cons of every decision, he makes recommendations and provides useful guides disguised as key principles. Buy the book so you too can access Ed's wisdom and experience. It's worth much more than the investment."


Ed Poll
Ed Poll

© 2010 LawBiz® Management. All rights reserved.

This LawBiz Tips E-Zine is listed under the following categories: