April 2022.

“Why do I need a lawyer?  I can just download a will from the Internet.”  The technology has changed, but the question has been around seemingly forever.  Twenty years ago, the will was a “freebie” on tax software, or was included in a software package bought at an office supply store.  Before that, it was a form purchased at the stationery store, with blanks to be filled in by hand or on a typewriter.

The comment misses the point.  Lawyers don’t provide wills, anymore than doctors sell pills or accountants, 1040s.  What professionals sell is wisdom – knowing how to spot the issues and problems, and approach them in the most efficient way to get the job done best.

The story is told that Henry Ford’s assembly line broke one day.  His factory workers, the foreman and the in-house engineer were unable to restore it to working order.  In desperation, he called in the specialist who had designed and supervised the building of the line.

That individual asked the foreman to describe the machine’s performance immediately before it stopped working, and the foreman pointed to a part of the machine and described an atypical noise.  The specialist nodded, borrowed a flat-head screwdriver, and, moving a panel, made an adjustment.  The assembly line resumed operation.

Mr. Ford told the specialist to send him a bill, which duly arrived, annotated “Twiddling, $10,000.”  Mr. Ford returned the bill with the prominent legend, “Please Itemize!”  The bill was reissued and returned, as follows: “Twiddling, $5.00.  Knowing how and where to twiddle, $9,995.00.”  Mr. Ford cheerfully paid the bill.

Henry Ford understood that he was not really paying for twiddling.  He was buying applied wisdom.  And that is what clients pay for from their attorney, their accountant, their medical professional – applied wisdom, “knowing how and where to twiddle” to produce the right result.

Yet the plethora of DIY websites and self-help books and volumes for Dummies attests to our culture’s distrust of professionals and assurance that we really can figure it out, given enough time and information.  And that might be true, or it might not.

It might be relatively simple to find online instructions for an operation on a pet – but what layperson would really poise a kitchen knife over Fido with confidence?  A miswritten will might be just as disastrous as a misdirected knife, and the DIY will drafter, by definition, will not even be around to find out that a mistake was made that hurt his or her family and friends.

Wills can be created at no charge, but at a high cost to those left behind.


Attorney Tim Barkley
The Tim Barkley Law Offices
One Park Avenue
P.O. Box 1136
Mount Airy
Maryland 21771

 (301) 829-3778

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