ANALYSIS: Three Ways State Bars Could Test Legal Tech Knowledge

I recently asked if state bar associations should formally test legal technical knowledge for mixed ratings. While some lawyers think this is a good idea, others think that continuing education in law (CLE) or law school courses would be sufficient. But opinions aside, if state bar associations actually started officially testing legal technical knowledge, what would that look like? How would it be done?

It is clear that the need for technology expertise in the legal industry is growing. According to Bloomberg Law’s Legal Technology Survey 2020, nearly 75% of internal respondents said their legal departments expect outside lawyers to increase their use of legal technology in order to be more efficient.

If the bar exam is to address this challenge, the National Conference of Bar Examiners would first need to determine which elements of legal technology to test. An easy way to make this decision would be to use the three main categories of legal technology defined as a guide by the Boston Consulting Group and the 2016 Bucerius Law School report: enabler technologies (cybersecurity etc), support process solutions (billing , etc.) and material law solutions (eDiscovery etc.).

In order to test skills in these areas, certain elements would have to be either integrated into the existing exam or implemented as a completely new test. This could be achieved by one of three possible format changes.

Three test methods

The first method inserts legal technology as a subject in the bar exam from Replacing some questions about the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) with legal technology issues. It could include legal technology issues in the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) or federal essays, or the testers could weave legal tech into situational fact patterns in the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

The second method combines legal technical questions with the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)because attorneys should keep abreast of the benefits and risks of legal technology, as per the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Legal Expertise Model Rule of Professional Conduct.

The third method maintains the status quo of the bar exam and the MPRE and replaces it introduces a new Multistate Legal Technology Exam (MLTE), a format similar to the MPRE.

As technology plays an increasingly important role in the legal practice, it is evident that the legal technical knowledge of future attorneys needs to be ensured. Regardless of the formatting method, official testing of Legal Technology can be a very useful approach.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our In Focus: Legal Technology and Practical Guidance: Legal Technology Glossary pages.

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