It is my professional responsibility as a lawyer to keep current with legal developments and how they relate to politics, and local, state and national news. This is a time-consuming process. Lawyers have to constantly learn, study, and analyze; their education is never-ending. A recent article quoting Wayne Hassey, Esquire, the managing partner of Maguire Schneider Hassey in Ohio, drew my attention. He is a fan of technology in the law, and he notes that although lawyers formerly formed a closed society, and only they had access to locating, analyzing and interpreting the law, due to the Internet, soon law will be a completely open source, and the public can educate itself.
Mr. Hassey is of the opinion that as everyone can now self-educate themselves about the law, the true value of a lawyer is “trust, advocacy, judgment and duty”. Silly me… I thought those concepts already contributed to the true value of a lawyer. And, many days lawyers question if they have any value, but that is usually after watching lawyers slogging away at each other on political programs, and being pummeled by “news” commentators.
Of course, most lawyers already encounter clients or potential clients self-educating with “Internet law,” and lawyers are not happy with that practice. Just because one reads about the law does not mean that one automatically acquires the legal skills necessary to traverse the increasingly complex legal system, and does not mean that the things one reads about actually apply to one’s situation. In fact, many lawyers are of the opinion that the general public has been harmed by its vague knowledge of the law. As a result, deadlines are not recognized and often missed, frivolous and superfluous motions are filed, and outrageous financial demands with no relationship to actual losses suffered are made. Therefore the old adage that a lawyer who represents him/herself has a fool for a client has now been expanded to the general public.
Although law is a historic profession, like much of society it is undergoing change, stress and turmoil, and the days when law was considered a stable and rigid profession are certainly gone. It appears that the legal field will experience turbulent times ahead. The large national and international law firms are continuing to invade each other and poach other lawyers, offer teams of lawyers some incentive to leave their current firms, or simply absorb or merge with other firms. Not only are lawyers leaving firms, but the managing partners of law firms are changing firms late in their careers, as are lawyers who have practiced with their original firms for a quarter of a century.
So I say to those Internet “lawyers” who have self-represented and been caught in the extremely complex wheels of the law, I trust that you have learned that the true value of a lawyer is having the advantage of relying on someone who guides you through the complexities of the ever-changing and highly complex laws which control your matter. So when lawyers themselves are experiencing turbulence in the legal field, relying on the Internet for information on how to practice law is not something a layperson should undertake.