The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct are created and revised by the Illinois Supreme Court. On October 15, the Court updated these rules to reflect how technology has changed legal practice, including a requirement that Illinois lawyers demonstrate technological competency as part of their ethical obligations.
According to the ISBA’s recent article “Illinois Supreme Court updates rules due to technology, practice developments”:
“The amendments to the Rules reflect the Supreme Court’s strong interest in utilizing technology to make the judicial process more efficient and its recognition of the increasing use of technology in today’s legal practice,” Chief Justice Rita B. Garman said. “These rule amendments also recognize how changes in legal practice have brought lawyers from other jurisdictions to Illinois to provide needed legal services as well as the Court’s commitment to ensuring that lawyers who practice in Illinois meet the highest of professional and ethical standards.”
Among other updates, the Court updated Rule 1.1, which reads:
A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
The rule is vague as written, but the rule’s comments provide more detail. According to the newly-added Comment 8:
8) 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.
This does not mean that lawyers are expected to be tech experts, but they are expected to understand how technology fits within their practice and what the benefits and pitfalls are. Take advantage of the resources available during law school to increase your technology skills, such as brushing up your Word skills with the Library’s guide to using Microsoft Word or taking technology-oriented classes such as Practice and Professionalism.
Image- Mervi Eskelinen (Creative Commons)