Can Lawyers Be Luddites? it is sort of a trick question. If you don't know what Luddite means, there is a far greater chance that you are one. I'll give you more information about the origination of the term later in this post, but suffice to say that today Luddite means that you are anti-technology.
There has been a lot of discussion about how well lawyers need to understand technology since the ABA House of Delegates amended Comment 8 to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 on Competence. The phrase in bold below was added to Comment 8:
To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.
Only a few jurisdictions have adopted this change so far. Oklahoma is not one.
Earlier this month Lawyerist ran a piece with the provocative title "Luddite Lawyers Are Ethical Violations Waiting To Happen." I'm certain it was read by a wide audience. It contains a link to a video clip from the George Zimmerman trial. It really is sort of stunning that the prosecutor in a trial that gripped the nation's attention didn't spend a few minutes asking one of the secretaries or younger lawyers in the office to explain to him how Twitter and Facebook worked before cross-examining a witness about her pages.
In the December 14, 2013 Oklahoma Bar Journal OBA member Darla Jackson addressed this issue, in her article: "Can Lawyers Be Luddites? Adjusting to the Modification of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct Regarding Technology." She suggested many areas where lawyers have no choice but to understand technology and mentioned resources for them to learn more. Darla Jackson is the Director of the University of South Dakota Law Library. (And, on a personal note, I am pleased she overcame the disadvantge in her background of being my legal intern while in law school.)
Meanwhile, returning to the term Luddite, according to Wikipedia:
"The Luddites were 19th-century English textile artisans who protested against newly developed labour-saving machinery from 1811 to 1817. The stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work. Although the origin of the name Luddite …is uncertain, a popular theory is that the movement was named after Ned Ludd, a youth who allegedly smashed two stocking frames in 1779, and whose name had become emblematic of machine destroyers."
You do not have to be a Luddite to feel like smashing a misbehaving technology tool every now and then. And the 19th-century Luddites were not exactly wrong. A Google search today for "industries destroyed by the Internet" yields 6.5 million results.