Can Embracing Any and All Digital Tech Lead to Trouble?

embracing rechnology

In a number of jurisdictions, the commentary to Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 Competency states that lawyers are to keep abreast of the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.  Keeping this language in mind, allow me to ask if you actually take this language to heart?  I ask because in my world while I often find that lawyers do a pretty good job of evaluating the benefits of any technology they are considering using in their practices, it’s evaluating the risks that seems to get the short shrift in the decision-making process.  Afterall, taking time to investigate any potential downsides to whatever the next must have digital tech tool is can be such a killjoy.

Consider voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa.  All have a serious coolness and convenience factor, and it certainly appears that the adoption rate and degree of integration of these and other voice user interface technologies into every facet of our lives will only continue to increase.  Next, factor in the movement toward smart homes and smart offices which also seems to have advanced beyond the early adoption stage.  So again, if you already are utilizing or are thinking about using voice assistants or smart office devices (think internet connected light bulbs, security cameras, access locks, coffee pots, and the list goes on) in your practice, have you looked into the associated risks because there are always going to be some.  For example, confidentiality concerns and the introduction of another phishing attack vector comes immediately to mind with the use of voice assistants, and if you can control a smart office device remotely via the Internet, so can a hacker.

Now hang with me here, because the purpose of this post isn’t what you might be thinking.  I’m not trying to raise a siren call out of a personal fear that embracing digital tech might be your downfall.  That said, before I share my closing thoughts, I do have one more example I’d like you to think about.

Have you ever had clients or others enter your office and while sitting down they take out their smartphone and say something along the lines of “let me put this on silent mode” or “let me turn this off” and then place the phone down in front of them or perhaps put it back in their pocket?  If so, have you ever considered that once in a while someone might actually be enabling the record function instead of powering down or placing the phone in silent mode?  This can and does sometimes happen.  Now, I’m not trying to suggest that lawyers never allow anyone to bring a smartphone into their offices.  What I am trying to point out is this.  Smartphones are sophisticated pocket-sized computers that come with all kinds of capabilities and I suspect few of us ever really stop to think about what others might be doing with these devices while in our presence.

Here’s my point.  Voice assistants, smart phones and every other digital tech tool out there brings with it certain inherent benefits and risks that we are charged with having to understand and consider prior to using it in the day-to-day practice of law.  And while the benefits of these tools are at times almost self-evident, the risks often aren’t.  Killjoy or not, potential risks do need to be investigated and understood so that you can make informed decisions about how to properly utilize all of your digital tech tools in an ethically responsible way and to help you establish some parameters around what employees and guests can and can’t do with any digital tech tools they bring into your professional space.  If you haven’t already given much thought to the risk side of the equation, now’s the time.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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