The general public seems to find the cost of legal services rather high. I always like to point out that it is the same with medical services.
To see a doctor, one may be charged in the neighborhood of $200 for a consult (without insurance). During this consult, one sees a number of people before actually seeing a doctor (sometimes a Physician Assistant or a Nurse Practitioner). Then, during this consult, the doctor examines you and may or may not prescribe something based on what he or she thinks may be wrong. If further tests are needed, you are asked to have these tests performed and return for a follow up. Honestly, sometimes you may leave the consult just as confused and without an immediate solution as you were before going to the consult. I speak from personal experience, of course. Even though paying $200 for someone to tell me to drink plenty of fluids and rest may seem like a steep price, I am happy to pay it. There is value in peace of mind and seeing someone who has dedicated his or her life to the practice.
It is the same with lawyers. We are legal doctors (JD- Juris Doctor). Whether we can help or not, our time is valuable. We have dedicated years to our practice and simply because we may not always have an answer or the answer that the client is looking for, does not mean our time and effort is less valuable. We are not magicians and sometimes we need to research further into a case to see the potential solution. Simply because our work product may be in the form of a memo, a letter, or even an email, does not mean that we did not spend time performing research on the issue.
Nowadays, there is a move towards using computer programs to do legal tasks. Prepare wills, fill out forms, etc. Arguably, less and less people may feel inclined to see an attorney. But, just like medical cases, you can feed your symptoms into a web browser, but that is not going to replace the logical mind of a human being, at least not yet.