Posted Sep 01, 2011 07:08 am CDT
From cameras in the courtroom to e-discovery, there has always been a tension between the legal profession and technology. With a variety of computer storage methods—think “cloud”—and “practice in a box” programs dotting the legal landscape, a group has come together to apply technological standards that may pave the way for an easier transition to the digital age.
The International Legal Technology Standards Organization was launched in April at the ABA Techshow in Chicago. A few days later at a meeting of the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 in Washington, D.C., ILTSO said it would begin taking feedback on the standards from legal professionals.
On its website the group lists its standards and provides opportunities for self-assessment and feedback to the organization.
The roughly 50 pages of standards include security measures for the office: “Always restrict access to the data room. It should remain locked with access limited to authorized parties only.” Also included are tips on relatively new technologies such as cloud data storage: When ever client data is stored via the Internet, it must be access-controlled at every point.”
Jeff Goens, executive director of ILTSO, says the push for standards came out of a concern that attorneys were not properly safeguarding information on the Internet, which could lead to ethical violations.
Goens is president of Dialawg, a Carmel, Ind.-based firm that provides software to encrypt conversations and file transfers. Last year, Goens put together a board—designed to reflect the various interested parties on the project, such as attorneys, vendors and academics—to draft the standards.
Richard Granat, a Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., attorney whose DirectLaw online firm provides law firm management software, is also an ILTSO board member. He says the suggested standards are “pretty sound,” but “in implementing them one has to be careful that smaller firms don’t get overwhelmed.”
Granat says lawyers need confidence about the technology they’re using to “take them off the ethical hook,” and he refers to the comments on cloud computing that came out of Ethics 20/20. These relate a lawyer’s ability to understand technology to ethical fitness, to the extent that the lawyer must use due diligence; to be competent, lawyers must “remain informed about technological issues that pertain to the practice of law,” Granat explains.
Carolyn Elefant, a Washington, D.C.-based solo practitioner, first criticized ILTSO as “overkill” in her MyShingle blog, but she backtracked on the criticism in a revised post. In an interview, Elefant says, “I still think some of the standards are overkill, … but I’m supportive of the conduct of the group.”