A big space just got filled in on my map of the states that have adopted the ethical duty of technology competence for lawyers, as Texas becomes the 36th state to do so.

On Feb. 26, 2019, the Supreme Court of Texas entered an order amending Paragraph 8 of Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The amended comment now reads (emphasis added):

Maintaining Competence

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. If a system of peer review has been established, the lawyer should consider making use of it in appropriate circumstances. Isolated instances of faulty conduct or decision should be identified for purposes of additional study or instruction.

The new phrase mirrors that adopted in 2012 by the American Bar Association in amending the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent not only in the law and its practice, but also in technology.

In the seven years since, 36 states have formally adopted this duty of technology competence.

According to the Texas Bar Blog, the State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section and the bar’s Professional Development/Continuing Legal Education Committee passed resolutions in April 2018 calling for the change.

In June 2018, the state bar’s board of directors voted to submit the resolutions to the Supreme Court for consideration. The court then asked the Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda to study the matter. On Dec. 5, 2018, the CDRR voted to recommend the change.

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Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.