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Lecturer in Law Michael Murphy advocates for professional responsibility rule regarding attorneys’ ‘Duty to Google’

October 15, 2020

In “The Search for Clarity in an Attorney’s Duty to Google,” University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Lecturer in Law Michael Murphy argues that the solution to the currently murky nature of an attorney’s “Duty to Google” lies in a “better-defined duty of factual investigation, codified in a rule of professional conduct.”

Murphy notes that although no specific rule or statute imposes a duty on attorneys to use technology in factual investigation, in certain recent high-profile cases, some lawyers “have been found by judges to have violated a ‘Duty to Google’ when they have failed to conduct an internet search for relevant factual information about, for example, a claim, their own client, and even potential jurors in a trial.”

The danger of a poorly-defined duty, Murphy observes, is that the attorneys involved were found to have violated a duty to their client that they may not have known existed until after they violated it.

In his pathbreaking paper, Murphy also addresses related questions such as, “At what point does technology like a search engine become so ‘mainstream’ that attorneys have a duty to use it or face allegations of malpractice?” and “How will attorneys know how much Googling is enough?”

Murphy concludes with suggestions for “industry-wide changes to better prepare attorneys to meet their obligations of technological competency.”

Murphy is the Clinical Supervisor and Lecturer in Law of the Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic at the Law School, where he teaches students how to provide transactional legal services to entrepreneurs. He brings a unique perspective based on his experience working as an attorney for each of a large law firm, a startup, and a publicly traded corporation. Murphy’s research explores two distinct areas: (a) how technology has changed and changes legal practice, and (b) how members of the legal profession can lead happier lives.

Murphy has also created an Electronic Discovery course at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law, where he taught as an Adjunct Professor while practicing full-time. He regularly teaches continuing legal education courses to practicing attorneys about the intersection of technology and legal practice.

Read more Law School faculty papers and publications.