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Since we're waxing philosophical for a few moments (the calm before the storm? <grin>) I'll toss my two cents into the ring.

Perhaps it's a reflection of our larger society. We value self-reliance much more highly that we did at the last turn of a century. Just a couple of generations ago, there were tight knit communities all over the country. Neighbor helped neighbor, looking out for each other. Today, we look out for "number one" more than we try to help a neighbor.

The same thing is happening in other professions. Doctors used to be highly respected in their community. They'd see their patients in the store or on the street, and give them medical advice wherever they could. They'd come to your house if you were too sick to get into their office. Now doctors are thought of as overpaid "gatekeepers" to the medical system. They won't see you unless you're in their office or a hospital. They conduct extensive tests, for fear of the lawsuits that would follow if they did too few tests.

Lawyers are no better off. Once a noble profession, they're now the butt of more jokes than any other professionals. People see them as ambulance chasers, ready to sue anyone and everyone for just about anything. On the criminal side, there's so little money, they're forced to press clients into accepting plea bargains, as going to trial is too expensive for all but the well-heeled clients.

The same thing is happening to them as you point out for accountants. How much internet bandwidth is devoted to self-help legal or medical sites? How many people are trying to diagnose their symptoms before going to the doctor, just to make sure the doctor is getting it right? How often are people drafting their own legal documents, thinking they can do as well as any lawyer?

We have become an individualistic society, losing our focus on working toward the common good. When that happens, people think of professionals as adversaries, not advocates. "How can I get this contract reviewed at the least cost" has replaced "Who's a good lawyer I can trust to handle this contract for me."

Just a year ago, I purchased a tax practice from a retiring preparer. As I'm getting calls to set up this year's appointments, I'm shocked at the number of people who've received letters from the IRS or the state and chose to handle it themselves rather than give me a call. And I've repeatedly told my new clients that I'm available year round and never charge them for calling me with questions. Yet they still choose to try to do it themselves.

I've rambled enough.

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