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The Conundrum of Competence in E-Discovery: Need Input, by Craig Ball, Ball In Your Court Blog


I frequently blast lawyers for their lack of competence when it comes to electronic evidence. I’m proud to be a lawyer and admire all who toil in the fields of justice; but I cannot hide my shame at how my brilliant colleagues have shirked and dodged their duty to master modern evidence.

So, you might assume I’d be tickled by the efforts of the American Bar Association and the State Bar of California to weave technical competency into the rules of professional conduct. And I am, a little. Requiring competence is just part of the solution to the competence crisis. The balance comes from supplying the education and training needed to become competent. You can’t just order someone who’s lost to ’get there;’ you must show them the way. In this, the bar associations and, to a lesser extent, the law schools have not just failed; they’ve not tried to succeed.

The legal profession is dominated by lawyers and judges. I state the obvious to expose the insidious: the profession polices itself. We set the standards for our own, and our standard setters tend to be our old guard. What standard setter defines himself out of competence? Hence, it’s extraordinary that the ABA commentary to Model Rule 1.1 and the proposed California ethics opinion have emerged at all.

These laudable efforts just say ‘get there.’ They do not show us the way. . . .