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Why To Use Forms

Forms are sample legal documents that attorneys use when writing contracts, pleadings, and other legal documents. In practice, most attorneys prefer to start with a form and adapt it to their own case rather than drafting each and every legal document they use from scratch.

Using standard forms instead of drafting an original legal document has several advantages:

  1. It saves time.
  2. It reduces the risk of missing important elements of a legal document or violating court formatting rules.  
  3. It helps you learn about underlying law. Many form books include summaries of the underlying law, checklists of tasks to complete, and references to relevant treatises, articles, laws, and Key Numbers. This can make them a good starting point for legal research.

Why To Be Careful

At their worst, forms may be:

  • Out-of-date. Law and court rules change- always double-check current laws and court rules rather than blindly relying on forms.
  • Inappropriate for your facts and jurisdiction. Forms provide general templates that may not reflect the specific laws and court rules that affect your case. Always adapt forms to your specific facts and jurisdiction and don't be afraid to modify forms or combine multiple forms to suit your purpose.
  • Full of unnecessary and unreadable legalese. See our list of guides to writing clearly for advice on drafting readable legal documents.
  • Flat-out wrong. Stick with forms from court websites and trustworthy databases and treatises, rather than using free form websites that offer forms of questionable accuracy and reliability.

Above all, always keep in mind that forms are a starting point, not an ending point.

Guide info

This guide was originally created by Caitlin Hunter in 2018 and is regularly updated by the library staff.