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.