Riding the Tech Wave: North Carolina State Bar Adds a Technology Component to its CLE Requirements

September 4, 2019

Technology is advancing at an ever-increasing rate, and the legal field is no stranger to its implementation. From billing services to electronic filing systems, technology is continuing to revolutionize the practice of law while making the hectic day-to-day routine a bit more manageable. However, with the benefits of evolving technology comes the dreaded challenge of learning how to use something new. Luckily, The North Carolina State Bar has taken steps to address this issue.

As of 2019, all attorneys licensed in North Carolina must complete one hour of technology training as part of the annual, twelve hour Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements. Time will tell how the technology requirement evolves, but there’s a few things we know for certain:

How does the North Carolina State Bar define “technology training”?

Technology training is a “program, or a segment of a program, devoted to education on information (IT) or cybersecurity . . . including education on an information technology product, device, platform, application, or other tool, process or methodology.”

Is the requirement limited to technology as it applies to the legal field?

Yes. Even though it’s tempting to spend an hour learning how to download your favorite Netflix show, this requirement strictly focuses on technology’s overlap with the legal field. Accredited programs are designed to increase an attorney’s competence and proficiency with technology. Examples include training regarding e-discovery, online filing, and office management software. 

How can you fulfill this technology requirement? 

If you’re a busy attorney who already travels more than you’d like, the North Carolina Bar Association has got your back. It offers a variety of options that fulfill the technology requirement, with most all of them being in the form of webinar or downloadable program. For example, a webinar on e-filing will be held on September 10 from 12:00-1:00PM. If you can’t commit to a specific time, don’t worry. You can also download on-demand programs to complete on your own time such as Going Paperless: How to Turn Magical Thinking into a Reality.

What is the breadth of program types currently available? 

Despite the recency of the technology requirement, the North Carolina Bar Association offers a large variety of topics from which to choose. From e-discovery and litigation management to cybersecurity’s impact on legal ethics, the available subject matter is quite expansive. 

Following Florida’s lead, North Carolina became the second state to require its attorneys to complete technology training as part of its CLE requirements. Due to the novelty of adopting such a requirement, an inevitable question arises: Is the requirement necessary? According to the Chair of the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation, Andrew Perlman, the answer is yes. He echoed his support for North Carolina by stating, “The change sends an important message: that lawyers need to understand how technology is affecting the delivery of legal services.” 

Perlman’s point is certainly worth nothing. Among other legal technology developments last year, Harvard Law completed an extensive project in which it digitized 6.4 million United States cases dating back to 1658. Coupled with ever-growing research tools such as the AI-supported Westlaw Edge by Thomas Reuters, technology is booming in the legal field. And despite the occasional headaches it produces, technology ultimately makes the workplace more efficient, capable, and interconnected. 

So, regardless of practice field or career path, the newly refined CLE program will benefit all North Carolina attorneys; even if you’re one who despises technology, you can content yourself with the fact that you’ll have a ‘tech savvy’ conversation starter for your next social gathering.

Boone Aiken IV

September 4, 2019