I've been spending the last year comparing publishing companies and their submission request. I noticed that a lot of the companies recommend a literary agent. Often times though it is followed with a line similar to "We recommend a literary agent, although they are not needed to ensure publishing." So here's my question, as I tend to do a lot of thinking on important decisions before jumping in: Are literary agents really something to get involved with? Or is it bad to avoid them because they truly are as harmful as some people have claimed? Also, what exactly is their job? As I've been told they are the "lawyers of the writing world".