ANALYSIS: Should Legal Tech Knowledge Be Tested on the Bar Exam?

Lawyers are currently using more legal tech than ever before. Many law schools offer legal tech education to students. However, we currently do not have an industry standard method for identifying and measuring a lawyer’s legal technology knowledge, understanding and competence. This made me curious: is it time for the bar exam to officially test legal technology knowledge?

I asked legal and legal technology experts for their opinion, and here’s what I learned.

There are good reasons to test …

There are several valid reasons why it would be a good idea to test knowledge of legal technology in the bar exam.

For the beginning, legal tech plays a big role in the profession. According to preliminary results of our Legal Technology Survey 2021, all legal organizations and departments use technology to some extent, so it is not so radical to propose an objective assessment of the skills that are becoming more indispensable each year.

After listening to John M. Facciola, retired U.S. magistrate and Georgetown Adjunct Professor of Law John M. Facciola, on a recent podcast on e-discovery and social media, I thought his opinion on the matter would be enlightening, so I turned to him.

“Not testing a gigantic part of the legal life seems strange to me,” he said during our conversation. I can imagine that it can seem strange to other lawyers as well.

Dauna Williams, founder of The Williams Group 5 and Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law, focused on the practicalities of adding Legal Tech to the bar exam. “The bar has to ask for it because our customers ask for it,” she said. “It is a necessary step to ensure that attorneys know how to develop a technological solution to a problem from legal analysis.” Competence of attorneys have dealt.

Why can’t lawyers just get third-party vendors to meet their technical requirements? You can and do it. Nonetheless, failure to use legal technology and interpret the information obtained from it can have far-reaching (and potentially catastrophic) consequences for that attorney – from the lack of or misinterpretation of critical information to the inadvertent disclosure of confidential and privileged material. Because Richter Facciola asked: “If you are not familiar with technology, how can you make a good decision to choose a provider with reliable data security?”

… but there are also potential downsides

There are concerns about testing legal technology on the bar exam, such as: Most fears, however, revolve around whether this could be achieved effectively.

According to Uma Everett, director at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, using the bar exam to measure legal technical proficiency can be too big a task. “It would be difficult to test that on the bar exam,” she told me. After all, legal tech is evolving rapidly, unlike the black letter law that occurs in all bar exams.

Casey Flaherty, attorney and co-founder of legal tech training company Procertas, said “It would be difficult for the bar exam questions and curriculum to keep up with the latest tech offerings.” That would be a challenge indeed, considering the need to keep bar examiners up to date with new technology while testing them agnostically at the same time.

Further options to ensure legal tech knowledge

The concerns listed above add to the counter-argument that attaining legal tech proficiency is a task best approached outside of the bar exam. Perhaps introducing a compulsory technology education curriculum would be more effective than testing another topic in the dreaded melting pot of the entrance exam.

Flaherty is a proponent of embedding some basic technical training in established law school classes, and claims that “the core technical training can now be incorporated directly into teaching courses”. For example, he suggests that Word training can be incorporated into the Legal Writing and Contract Law course in the first year. In civil litigation, he says, the course could also include PDF training to teach law students how to prepare a compliant electronic filing.

Everett shared her opinion that in order to instill legal technical acumen in attorneys, “it may be better to only have CLE requirements instead.” Well hit on point: The respective state bars in Florida and North Carolina do just that.

Another premise is that the professional competence of attorneys can be inevitable without requiring systemic changes. Professor Ray Brescia, the Honorable Harold R. Tyler Chair in Law and Technology and Professor of Law at Albany Law School, told me that the “prosecution machinery and threats of malpractice lawsuits are likely to be related to the preference of the market.” “. go a long way in promoting the ultimate goal of having tech-savvy lawyers. ”His argument is that pre-existing mechanisms, combined with a laissez-faire approach to supply and demand, are sufficient to ensure lawyers have the legal technical skills required Have knowledge (and that the clients deserve).


Efforts to train prospective and current lawyers in legal technology are in full swing. While there are other ways to ensure competency, formal testing of legal tech skills would reassure future employers that state bar examiners have already confirmed the suitability of successful test takers. And let’s face it, if the bar exam is the final hurdle law graduates have to overcome to officially join “the club,” how much harder could it be to add another hurdle?

Take part in Bloomberg Law’s Legal Technology Survey here. The survey ends soon!

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