Disruptive Technology and the Ethical Lawyer
20 Pages Posted: 15 May 2019
Date Written: April 19, 2019
Technology is changing both the substance of lawyers’ work and the modes of delivering legal services. Lawyers, as facilitators of their clients’ innovations, help propel new technology into the mainstream. At the same time, the practice of law itself is subject to myriad rules and regulations. Innovation in the legal profession, such as advancements in the tools for delivering legal services, directly impacts lawyers and the way they work. The legal ethics rules and substantive law dictating lawyer conduct now expressly require a duty of technological competence. This duty of technological competence has come about at a time when innovation, often fueled by artificial intelligence, has produced new legal technology, or “lawtech.” Lawtech developments require lawyers to adapt the very tools of their trade in order to stay competent.
This Article first defines disruptive technology, both as to innovation relevant to clients who may be tech disruptors and as to lawtech that lawyers may be using in their own practice. It defines the ethical pitfalls of both aspects of disruptive technology, starting with the potential pitfalls of representing tech disruptor clients, including the risk of over-association with the client or engaging in illegal or extra-legal activity in the name of innovation. It then shifts to discussing the ethical pitfalls tech-averse lawyers face and urges lawyers to allow new technology to augment and improve the practice of law itself. New technology is good for the legal profession, on the whole, and lawyers can be a part of the disruption while remaining within their ethical bounds.
Keywords: Technology, Legal Ethics, Professional Responsibility, Technology Competence, Artificial Intelligence, Emerging Technologies, Disruptive Innovation
JEL Classification: O30, K19, K30, K40, K42, K20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation