Ethical Duty of Technology Competence: Quick Guide for Texas Lawyers

Technology has become deeply embedded in nearly every industry, and law is no exception. Modern lawyers rely on their computers, phones, email, customer management software, the internet, and many other tools to conduct their work.

While these advancements have made work more efficient and easier, they also come with vulnerabilities. Failing to protect client information and being the victim of a data breach, phishing attack, malware, or other scam happens to legal firms every day. Affected businesses take a huge monetary and reputational hit – some never recover. That’s why it’s incredibly important to do all you can to keep your data secure.



And now, the Supreme Court of Texas agrees. As of 2019, they adopted the Ethical Duty of Technology
Competence. Paragraph 8 of Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct was
amended, and now reads:

8. Because of the vital role of lawyers in the legal process, each lawyer should strive to become and remain proficient and competent in the practice of law, including the benefits and risks associated with
relevant technology. To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill of a competent practitioner, a lawyer should engage in continuing study and education.

This new phrasing mirrors that adopted by the American Bar Association in 2012 amending the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. This states that lawyers have a duty to be competent not only in the practice of law, but its supporting technology.



While the amendment itself is relatively vague in telling lawyers what should be done, the most important thing any law firm can do is protect its clients.

Technology-wise, this amounts to:

-Email and file retention

-Backup, continuity, and disaster recovery planning and implementation

-Heightened security practices (two-factor authentication, antivirus, email and content filtering, managed cloud systems, encrypted transmissions, regularly updated and patched software)

-Regular training and education on new threats and protection methods

Attackers hit companies both big and small. They don’t discriminate!

Large companies may have a larger budget and protection, but they are also valuable targets. Not to mention that more employees = more opportunity for human error. It only takes one person to fall for a phony email to compromise the entire business.

Smaller companies have a false sense of security. We often hear that they don’t think anyone would bother going after them. But attackers don’t care, they know that smaller firms have less security and fewer resources to dedicate to training. Breaching a small firm can still lead to monetary gain and access to other valuable business and client information.

Law firms in Texas can now face serious consequences if a data breach or other security issue hits them. Unless they can prove that they followed the amendment guidelines and did everything in their power to prevent the issue, they can expect huge fines and damage to their firm.

Be proactive and take the time now to secure your legal business!



The Modern Lawyer’s Technology Guide – Learn what technology we recommend to keep your firm secure, productive, and effective.

5 Steps to Protect Your Law Firm’s Private Data – Get serious about your security and protecting sensitive client data. Go through these five straightforward steps and the included checklist to lock down your firm.

5 Steps to Protect Your Law Firm's Private Data

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Written by Lauren Morley

Lauren is the Chief Marketing Officer at Techvera. She travels the country full-time with her husband and dogs. When she isn't coming up with marketing strategies for Techvera, you can find her playing games, exploring nature, or planning her next adventure!

July 31, 2020

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