By now, 36 states have adopted some version of the ABA’s updated Model Rule 1.1. duty of tech competence which requires lawyers to keep abreast of the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. But there’s an even better reason than ethics compliance for lawyers to learn more about tech: to retain clients.
Small Business Trends recently reported on a study showing that small businesses are turning to their accountants for technology advice. A full 40 percent of CPAs surveyed say that clients ask them tech questions up to twenty times per month. Of those questions, 62 percent involve desktop accounting software, 46% on software training and 57% on data security.
Why do clients turn to their CPAs with tech questions? First, clients often view their accountants as trusted advisors and therefore, can count on the advice dispensed to be sound. Second, clients understand that many accountants have integrated technology into their businesses and may have thoughts on the best software products to use for financial management.
Unfortunately, so many lawyers are viewed as behind the times that it’s unlikely that clients would ever ask technology questions as they do with CPAs. Even so, lawyers can be proactive, and put together resource sheets listing technology tools that can assist clients in managing their case and related problems. For example, a family law attorney can recommend investment management software to a newly divorced woman who’s never handled finances on her own, or apps for managing shared custody. Lawyers for small businesses could share information on electronic billing and document storage. And by now, all lawyers should advise clients on the consequences of accessing accounts that don’t belong to them or avoiding security breaches just to save clients from themselves.
So even if your jurisdiction doesn’t have a specific rule on tech competence, you shouldn’t ignore technology because you may miss out on opportunities to connect with and stay in touch with clients.
Are there tech tools you could recommend to your clients to make their lives easier? And what tech questions do clients have for you? Post your comments below.