Non-lawyers frequently decide to conduct their business without the assistance of an attorney. They have that right. But they proceed at their own risk for the law affects everything. They might get lucky and execute their own Will and foster the end result they sought to accomplish. Often, however, they find that the path they went down results in troubles that a few simple precautions could have prevented.
A person can go on the internet and read the law and attempt to apply it to their situation, even if they are not a lawyer. The problem is, even after three years of intensive training in law school, the recent grad is not in a position to apply it successfully without reference to those things they generally, do not, or cannot teach them in law school.
Each and every time I meet with a new client, I learn something new. I will finesse the details of the law a bit and apply it for this new client’s circumstances in ways that I never did before. The more experience I have with each new application of that legal principle, I increase my understanding of the components of practice that build upon my prior knowledge and experience.
If you specialize, you find that your depth of understanding of the law increases exponentially for your specialty. More than that, your depth of knowledge in how to apply it continues to expand with each new client and each new application. This isn’t abstract legal knowledge without context. Instead, it is insight into how to take that law and play it like a fine musical instrument. The law is one thing, how it is applied in reality, in the context of the local rules, by local judges, and through individual attorneys can be quite different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from time to time. Similarly, local policy, current public opinion, potential changes and evolution of the law, and the trajectory of the law can impact the outcome with considerable variability. How can a layperson be expected to fully appreciate all of the permutations possible without any context or prior experience dealing with legal issues? The truth is that they can’t. You will find many examples of information about how to do your own documents without the assistance of an experienced attorney and you can end up with a document that gives you great comfort knowing that you now have, for instance, a Will. What you miss is that the value that is built into that document is missing the foundational principle of the counseling that an experienced attorney can render in counseling you. Miss or add a few words here and there and you can totally change the outcome.
What I find amazing is that individuals will spend time discriminating between a brand-name can of peas versus a generic brand to save a few cents. Yet, they spend even less time considering the consequences of choosing life and death planning options with or without an attorney. The place to save money is not on the can of peas as much as it is to put in place a solid plan for your possible disability and ultimate demise. As you lie on your deathbed, that can of peas will have much less significance than your estate plan.