Everyone knows that we have an ethical duty of competence, and in most jurisdictions this includes a duty to be aware of the “benefits and risks” of relevant technology.  Examples of possible technology issues affecting our practices:  encryption (and cyber-security in general), cloud storage, e-mail handling, the internet of things — there

Does the new year have you thinking about taking on work in a new practice area?  Maybe business in your accustomed area is slowing, and you’re considering shifting gears.  If so, beware of dabbling in areas where you don’t have the requisite knowledge and skill to provide competent representation to your client.

The ethical duty

There should be a word that’s the opposite of “schadenfreude” — you know, that evocative German term that means “secret pleasure at another’s misfortune.” Maybe there is such a word, but the one I’m searching for would convey the sense of “Please, let me not fall into the same error” as some other person did, because under the right (or wrong) circumstances we can all make ethical mistakes. Here are three cautionary tales. You may read them and wonder how the lawyers involved came to such grief — or you may just be thankful that it wasn’t you, or that the demons these lawyers struggled with aren’t yours.
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Technophobia isn’t confined to U.S. lawyers — no surprise, it affects Canadian members of the bar, too, with the same potentially disastrous results. Last month’s cautionary tale: a lawyer who was technologically illiterate failed to supervise his wife, who ran his office and used his bar credentials to misappropriate more than $3000,000 without his knowledge. Canadian disciplinary authorities permitted him to surrender his license voluntarily, instead of revoking it.
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