Is a little knowledge a dangerous thing?

I would have to say that the saying "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" has got to be the all time most pompous thing I’ve ever heard.  Who says this but those among us that have the elite knowledge?  I’m sure it’s not the ones without the information and knowledge that say this.  To them, a little information and knowledge usually helps immensely.  In the case of legal information and knowledge, a little information goes a long way.  So many times, once a person has a little information, they realize that they really need the help of a trained professional.  For lawyers this means helping people to understand their rights and obligations under the law as well as explaining how the law works in practice.  But why bother, you might ask?  By providing legal information and advice, you help to lessen some serious problems with our legal system while you also build your client base.

The first problem is the lack of basic legal knowledge in society.  So many of us don’t know nearly enough about how our government works and how our laws are made to make good decisions.  Of course this is not the fault of the legal profession; though our government and court system is made up of lawyers for the most part.  So often a lawyer can provide a little insight into how things work.  There is a real hunger out there for legal information!  Just do a Google search for "legal advice" and see how many sites pop up.  People are looking for any kind of legal knowledge they can get.  In the case of AdviceScene, we see this hunger for information from the amount of times a relatively mundane legal answer is read.

The second problem is that people don’t know what lawyers do.  So often people don’t know that a lawyer could help them with their situation until they see an answer from a lawyer in a certain practice area.  A classic example of this is in one of the posts from our forum where someone says "I didn’t even know there were employment lawyers."  The person knew they had a problem, but had no idea that lawyers specialized in helping employees protect their rights.

The third problem is that people don’t realize how much better off they are with a lawyer working for them.  This is so tragic it would be funny if it weren’t for so many cases where people try to do things themselves and end up losing their livelihood, their kids, their home, and more.  People won’t try to wire their own home, but they often don’t hesitate to represent themselves in court or write their own will.  And so often the consequences are just as bad as wiring their own home!  But once people realize what lawyers do and how they can help, more of them contact lawyers to help them with the things that they really shouldn’t be doing without help.

The forth and final problem that this type of work addresses is that the perception of the legal community needs to improve.  People don’t realize that lawyers care about access to justice and access to legal information.  On our legal forum, so often people are surprised that lawyers take time out of their day to provide free legal information and advice.  By doing this kind of work online as well as in their day to day practice, lawyers really help to improve the perception of their profession. 

But what does this do for the lawyers?  First, by improving basis legal knowledge in society in general, lawyers will attract better-informed clients; and better-informed usually means more efficient (i.e., less time spent explaining the basics).  Second, if people know what lawyers do they will come to realize that they are much better off being represented by a lawyer in so many instances; and that means more phone calls to your office.  Finally, helping to improve the perception of the legal profession can do nothing but good for business.

In the case of legal knowledge, a little information isn’t always a dangerous thing, in fact it can be very safe thing indeed.

Nancy Kinney
Democratizing the law one question at a time

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