Catherine J. Lanctot
Becoming a Competent 21st Century Legal Ethics Professor: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Technology (But Were Afraid to Ask)
This Article provides a roadmap for rebooting the legal ethics curriculum. It describes how to revise a traditional legal ethics class to respond to twenty-first century law practice, and provides a detailed overview of the landscape of technological issues currently affecting the practice of law, including many cautionary tales of lawyers who ignored their ethical responsibilities.
We have finally hit the tipping point with respect to the use of technology within the legal profession, as bar regulators have begun to warn attorneys that they may no longer plead ignorance of technological advances if such ignorance harms the interests of their clients. With technological competence becoming more important for lawyers with each passing year, we do our students a disservice if we do not prepare them adequately for their future in the law.
Legal ethics professors are uniquely situated to impress upon our students the obligation to understand the risks and benefits of technology in the practice of law. But before we can ensure that our students are competent to enter a world of rapid and disruptive technological change, we need to be sure that we are competent ourselves. This may be unwelcome news for many colleagues, especially those who still harbor a little bit of the Luddite spirit that has always been a part of the legal profession.
Integrating ethical issues arising from technology can be readily accomplished if we commit ourselves to carrying out this objective. By embracing the challenge of imbuing our approach to the study of legal ethics with a focus on technological innovation, in both our teaching and our scholarship, we can be important voices at this time of transformation.