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How To: Drafting Legal Documents: Court-Prepared & Online Forms

Tips for drafting legal documents for your law practice.

Guide Outline


  • Introduction
  • 'Just Show Me...'
  • For Further Reading...


  • About
  • General
  • Subject-Specific
  • Jurisdiction-Specific
  • Document-Specific

Court-Prepared & Online Forms

In-House Forms Resources

  • About
  • In-House Databank
  • The Matter File
  • Your Colleagues
  • Your Own Files

Court-Prepared Forms

Many courts prepare forms for frequently-used pleadings and other filings. These are typically check-the-box and fill-in-the-blank documents that contain standard language; your unique drafting input is kept to the bare minimum. The goal of these court forms is to simplify procedure.

Court forms are often available for summons, form interrogatories, family law pleadings, cost bills, various notices, various orders, various stipulations, various criminal law pleadings, default judgments, jury instructions, etc. etc.

Often failure to use court-prepared forms is grounds for dismissal, default, or discipline. When preparing to draft a document, think about checking with the court to determine whether a court form should be used. The court website is a good place to look for available forms.

Forms Online

Many forms are available online. Some of the best places to look are as follows:

LEXIS and Westlaw: Many of the formbooks mentioned above are available on LEXIS and/or Westlaw, in full text searchable format. Check the database directories for availability and coverage.

WashLaw Web Legal Forms: Contains links to websites containing numerous forms, including state-specific and jurisdiction-specific forms.

‘Lectric Law Library Legal Forms: Purports to be the “Net’s biggest collection of free legal forms.” Forms divided into categories: Law Practice Forms, Business and General Forms, Premium Forms (state-specific forms of various kinds).

FedForms: Provides “’one-stop shopping’ for the federal forms most used by the public.”

Findlaw Forms: Provides access to state, federal and bankruptcy forms. Also includes “Form Finder” feature that allows keyword searching of the forms of a particular jurisdiction.

For Michigan-Specific forms, try the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) - Michigan. View "Partnership" section, which includes a Formbook, "How-to Kits," MI Law updates, webcasts, and ICLE seminar materials. (Business; Real Property).

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