A Texas attorney’s duty to maintain competence in the practice of law includes knowing about relevant technology, according to a new Texas Supreme Court order.

The court, in Misc. Docket No. 19-9016, amended Paragraph 8 of the comment to Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which deals with competent and diligent legal representation. Under the amended comment, maintaining proficiency and competence in the practice of law includes knowing “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

The amendment mirrors a change made to the American Bar Association model rule in 2012.

The State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section and the bar’s Professional Development/Continuing Legal Education Committee passed resolutions in April 2018 supporting the change. At that time, 31 states had adopted language similar to the ABA model rule related to technological competence, according to the resolutions.

The Computer and Technology Section resolution, signed by then-chair Michael Curran, said that “the practice of law is now inextricably intertwined with technology for the delivery of services, the docketing of legal processes, communications, and the storage and transfer of client information, including sensitive and confidential private information and other protected data.”

“[L]awyers have become increasingly dependent upon mobile applications to perform core legal functions and the electronic creation of and transmission of attorney client work product and storage of all of this information in the cloud and, therefore, they require a fundamental skillset to effectively manage their law practice,” the section resolution states.

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors voted in June 2018 to submit the resolutions to the Supreme Court for consideration. The court then asked the Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda, or CDRR, to study the matter.

The CDRR voted December 5 to recommend the change, noting that the same language is found in the comment to ABA Model Rule 1.1 and is part of the ethics code in many states.