Late last month the Florida Supreme Court adopted two new amendments to the rules regulating the Florida Bar. Both amendments address the legal profession’s commitment to staying current with technological advancements that relate to the practice of law.
State bar associations regularly require its members to take Continuing Legal Education (CLEs) courses to maintain their bar membership. However, no state, until Florida, required any technology-focused CLEs.
Over a decade ago, states began including language in their ethical rules indicating that attorneys need to keep abreast of changes in technology–specifically as it relates to the practice of law. As of 2016, 25 states required it in their ethical rules. However, Florida is the first state to proactively require technology training for all lawyers.
The new amendments will go into effect January 1, 2017. Attorneys admitted to the Florida Bar must take a minimum of three hours of technology-focused CLE courses during a three year period. Additionally, the court also approved the state bar association’s request to raise the number of CLE hours from 30 to 33, to accommodate the new required hours.
In its short opinion, the Court explained, “In order to maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should engage in continuing study and education, including an understanding of the risks and benefits associated with the use of technology.”
The Supreme Court also expanded its understanding of competent representation. Florida attorneys can now also retain non-lawyer advisers with “established technological competence in the relevant field.”
The state already has over 30 hours of free technology CLE courses available through The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Institute.