What is a client buying when he or she hires a lawyer? If your answer is that lawyers get paid for knowing the law, think again. The law, defined as rel­e­vant statutes, reg­u­la­tions and court cases, is now instantly avail­able to anyone con­nected to the Internet. Access to primers, gov­ern­ment forms, and even Internal Rev­enue Ser­vice cir­cu­lars, is also avail­able at the push of a button.

Thinking of starting a busi­ness? The Small Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion hosts a Web page that offers step-​​by-​​step instruc­tions on choosing the right legal struc­ture. Con­tem­plating the great beyond? Count­less web­sites offer guid­ance on the legal ins and outs of drafting a will. What do lawyers offer that the Internet cannot?

The short answer is that legal training gives lawyers lenses through which to view the law that those who come fresh to a legal topic typ­i­cally will not pos­sess. This is easy to under­stand for those who have ever attempted to diag­nose them­selves by searching symp­toms on WebMD. The words may be on the screen explaining what symp­toms cor­re­spond to what diag­nosis, but the layperson will often rush to dire con­clu­sions that a trained eye will readily dismiss.

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