As regular readers of this blog know, I track the states that have adopted the duty of technology competence for lawyers. As of this writing, 36 states have done so. In addition, two states have revised their CLE rules to require ongoing technology training for lawyers.
Maine has done neither — it has adopted neither the duty of technology competence nor mandatory tech CLE. However, as of May 1, a new CLE rule took effect in Maine (Maine Bar Rule 5) that at least gives an aspirational nod to technology competence, albeit a tepid one.
The new Rule 5 replaces Maine’s former CLE rule in its entirety. The first paragraph sets out the purpose of the rule:
To maintain public confidence in the legal profession and the rule of law, and to promote the fair administration of justice, attorneys must be competent regarding the law, legal and practice-oriented skills, the standards and ethical obligations of the legal profession, and the management of their practices. The purpose of minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) requirements is to promote and sustain competence and professionalism and to ensure that attorneys remain current on the law, law practice management, and technology in our rapidly changing society. These rules establish minimum requirements for continuing legal education, accreditation criteria, and compliance procedures.
The key phrase there — which I’ve highlighted — is that the purpose of setting minimum CLE requirements is to “ensure that attorneys remain current on the law, law practice management, and technology.”
An admirable purpose, no doubt. Oddly, however, the rule never again mentions technology. It specifies that attorneys must have at least one credit hour in ethics and professionalism and one in avoiding harassment and discriminatory conduct. But no requirement related to technology.
The rule provides guidance on what CLE programs must cover. To be accredited, it says, they “must have significant intellectual or practical content designed to promote attorney competence and must deal primarily with matters related to the practice of law, ethics and professionalism, or law practice management.” But again, there is no requirement that programs cover technology, let alone mention of technology.
I contacted Aria Eee, counsel to Maine’s Board of Overseers of the Bar, to make sure I was not missing something in Maine’s rules. She confirmed that this is the only reference to technology. She wrote:
Maine attorneys are encouraged to attend CLE programming that provides education on safe and effective ways to use technology in law practice. Attorneys will receive credit if they attend such CLEs and the program has been approved by the Board’s CLE committee. But the tech aspect is not a requirement, rather more of an aspirational CLE goal.
So the stated purpose of the rule, in part, is to ensure that attorneys remain current on technology. But there is no express requirement of competence or training in technology. The rule creates no obligation for attorneys to be technologically competent. But at least it creates an aspiration. And that, I suppose, is better than nothing.