Duty Learn New Technology?

Why Acquire New 
Technical Knowledge

Lawyers have been addressing clients’ technological challenges for years. Now, however, more lawyers are expected to advise individuals and companies that sell technology or whose businesses depend on it. 

Moreover, lawyers and clients increasingly communicate through electronic means instead of in person. That means we are all technology lawyers now and our clients are all technology consumers [See “We’re All Technology Lawyers Now: Understanding the Risks Involved in High-Tech Practice is Imperative,” by George M. Kryder, Esq., Vinson & Elkins, Dallas, Texas, May 2001]. 

Our professional liability risks increase as traditional legal skills, attitudes, and customs encounter the problems of modern technology. Technology may cause inattention to the details that careful lawyering requires. Instant communication may mean quicker – but less well-reasoned – legal advice to faraway clients. 

 Despite the speed of technology, sound lawyering still demands patience and a deliberate approach. Even though one can click “reply” and quickly answer an e-mail inquiry, that does not mean one should. The time one saves through technological efficiency should be used to communicate more effectively with clients and produce the right – not the most rapid – legal advice. Lawyers should find experts to assist them in protecting technology and intellectual property.

Protecting personal privacy is shaping legislation and lawsuits. The legal implications of you or your clients failing to maintain their privacy online, is of serious concern. Medical and financial records are an example where this concern applies. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires health care providers to maintain the privacy of patient information, requires consent for disclosure of paper and electronic records, and prohibits unauthorized use of patient records for employment purposes. Likewise, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act prohibits financial institutions from disclosing certain personally identifiable financial information. State legislatures may extend privacy protections to consumers. Many employers are implementing technology-based policies providing that employees have no expectation of privacy in the employer’s e-mail, voicemail, Internet, and network systems. Company codes of conduct often require employees to expressly consent to monitoring their access to and use of the employer’s computer systems.