LexBlog’s Bob Ambrogi reports that North Carolina is close to mandating technology training for lawyers.

The North Carolina State Bar Council has approved a proposed amendment to lawyers’ annual CLE requirements that would mandate that one hour of the required 12 hours of CLE training annually be devoted to technology training.

The council adopted the proposed amendment on April 20. The proposed amendment now goes to the North Carolina Supreme Court for approval.

North Carolina, Ambrogi reports, is only the second state to mandate technology aptitude.

In 2016, Florida became the first state to mandate technology training for lawyers, when it adopted a rule requiring lawyers to complete three hours of CLE every three years “in approved technology programs.”

I couldn’t help but feel the irony of it all when reading Ambrogi’s report.

It was just a couple days ago I was reading a piece by Richard Granat, a champion on the use of technology for greater access to justice, on North Carolina legislation (pdf) restricting the use of technology to provide access to legal services.

Under the guise of consumer protection, North Carolina has passed new legislation, at the direction of the North Carolina Bar, that imposes restrictions on distributing self-help legal software over the Internet.  Rather than protecting consumers, this legislation is a frightened response by the North Carolina Bar to protect their lawyer’s incomes from the impact of advances in Internet technology that provide new ways for people to solve their legal problems at low cost.

The restrictions are so severe that the result is to deprive North Carolina’s citizens of low cost solutions to solving many legal problems, inhibits innovation in developing legal solutions by an emerging self-help legal software industry, stifles competition  from self-help legal software publishers, and will eliminate any possibility of private investment in self-help legal software development.

Then yesterday I read a piece from Mary Juetten, co-founder of Evolve Law and founder and CEO of Traklight, a self-guided IP strategy platform, on state bar associations driving small legal tech companies out of business on the pretense that legal tech business models violate the unauthorized practice of law rules.

One of them attempting do so recently, per Juetten – Florida, in the face of the Department of Justice.

Late last year, TIKD [app that enables indiduals to easily contest tickets] sued The Florida Bar (Bar) and The Ticket Clinic for colluding to put TIKD out of business. The Bar claims it can violate federal antitrust law with impunity because it is an “arm of the state.” In its Statement of Interest, the DOJ seems to understand the link to access to affordable legal services:

“To be sure, new and innovative mobile device apps can be disruptive. Business models entrenched for decades have witnessed new competition from mobile platforms that can profoundly change an industry. But almost invariably, the winners from the process of innovation and competition are consumers. …”

Anyone else see the irony of bar associations mandating legal technology training for their lawyers while outlawing the use of technology that brings access to legal services to the eighty or ninety percent of Americans for whom legal services are absolutely irrelevant?

Imagine if the FAA said airlines could not use technology for selling tickets to passengers. Passengers would need to contact a travel agency or the airline directly to get their ticket mailed out.

Yes, it will mean higher prices and and a gross inconvenience, but as a result of rules consumers cannot understand and a desire to protect jobs, that’s just the way it is with airlines and its governing body.

But do know that the FAA is requiring of all pilots, flight attendants, ticket agents, gate agents, airport attendants and airline office employees mandatory technology training. They’ll be magic with iPads, PDFs, word processing, form submissions to agencies and so much more.

Isn’t it the same here? Bar associations outlawing what consumers need, the effective delivery of legal services realized through legal technology.

Do consumers of legal services, individuals or businesses, cry out for the need for mandatory technology training for lawyers? Something that bar associations will be very, very hard pressed to demonstrate its nexus with greater access to legal services?

I get that lawyers should be using technology to practice law effectively, mandatory training or not.

The cynical side of me says though when you make it manadatory you may be doing so to mask your real bias against legal technology.