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The “Competent” Lawyer (Update)

MAStateSealIn a post last week, I wrote about an amendment made to the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct to modify the continuing educational requirements of attorneys to include learning about “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”  As part of my analysis of how the language would likely have little actual impact on continuing educational requirements, I pointed out that only one state, Delaware, had even bothered to adopt the new language in the year since the ABA included it.

Well, the state of Massachusetts appears ready to make me look a little foolish.  Earlier this month, the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct proposed several amendments to the Massachusetts rules, including verbatim recitation of the ABA’s “Maintaining Competence” language. (A comprehensive list of the proposed revisions can be found here)

Should the new language be adopted, Massachusetts would be the second state to formally declare that an attorney must have some knowledge of “relevant technology” in order to maintain professional competence.  However, as I mentioned before, the term “relevant technology” actually means, and the extent to which an attorney must actually be familiar with it, remain so unclear that the rule itself is toothless, and may just be aspirational.