If a lawyer explains to you how the legal system works, does it mean that you are ready to become your own lawyer? Not likely. But some people, apparently from the legal community, think that lawyers should not give away the goods for free, so to speak. One of the arguments goes like this: …”giving away free legal information allows them [potential clients] to have enough knowledge to formulate their own answers to their problems and that will ruin it for all of the others who are just starting up in this career” (YouTube comment). Other comments I’ve heard are similar in tone: don’t give people free information because it will hurt our chances of being hired—we could charge for that information. Interestingly all these comments have been made anonymously by people that sound like lawyers or law students, but I can’t be sure. I suspect that at least some lawyers think it’s dangerous to arm the public with more legal knowledge, but none of them have been so bold as to come right out and say it. So let me address this blog to those lawyers that believe lawyers should keep all the information to themselves.
If an electrician educates you about electricity, are you more likely to wire your own house than you were before? Of course not. In fact, you’re probably more likely not to. The electrician hasn’t made him or herself obsolete by offering you a few tips. He or she has done just the opposite: explained exactly what an electrician does and told you how very dangerous wiring your own home can be. Not that I believe that being your own lawyer is as dangerous as being your own electrician, but sometimes a person going it on their own in our legal system might as well be trying to wire their own house! OK, getting back to lawyers. Lawyers offering free legal information and educating the public isn’t going to make lawyers obsolete. What it’s going to do is enhance the perception of lawyers generally; and make more people realize that they at least need to consult with a lawyer before attempting do their own legal work. Giving people more information about the law and their rights is not a wrong thing to do; nor is it a bad business decision. Lawyers that donate their time to help people learn more about the law are not only doing a great community service, they are making a great business decision as well. Lawyers that answer questions and post legal information on the AdviceScene legal forum allow potential clients to get to know them ahead of time; and they give people something for free—all clients like that. Unlike the lawyers that have criticized this site and the lawyers that contribute to it, the AdviceScene lawyers probably won’t ever have to worry about their legal careers or lack of clients.