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Legal Research Resources for the Public: Self-Help Books and Legal Forms

Books on Legal Issues


Benchbooks provide an overview of legal procedure for a judge. Benchbooks assist judges in deciding how to dispose of a case. 

The Michigan Judicial Institute publishes benchbooks online for the public to read and print. Michigan benchbook subjects include Crime Victims Rights, Residential Landlord-Tenant Law, Evidence, Adoption Proceedings, and Traffic, among others.

Pro Se Pro Tips: Pay Attention to Dates

The law on any subject is not set in stone; it evolves with every new statute, case, and regulation. Dates are always important in legal matters.

  • When reading books about a legal issue, note when it was published.
    • Could the law have changed since then? Are there newer materials on the subject matter?
    • Pay attention to copyright dates.
  • Check the "pocket parts."
    • Many legal volumes have supplemental pages added to the back cover or next to a hard-cover book. These pages update, change, or supplement the information contained in the original volume.
    • Note the date of the pocket part, as well. It’s the most recent update to this book, but are there other, more recent books out there?
  • When filling out government forms, make sure they are the most recent version.
    • Search engine results may list older forms ahead of the current ones.
    • Courts and other government institutions often link to the latest updates on their websites.
  • Search for the most recent ruling on a subject matter.
    • An older ruling may have been reversed, superseded, treated negatively, or even overturned.
    • Verifying the currency of court cases is tricky, since older cases are not necessarily superseded by newer cases on the same issue. A citator (like Shepard's on Nexis Uni) is the best way to verify whether an item is still "good law."

Books with Legal Practice Forms

Federal and State form books provide standard language for legal documents, as well as fill-in-the-blank forms for pleading and practice. The following are some of the form books available in the Library:


  • West's Federal Forms (St. Paul: West Pub. Co.) 1964-- (REF COLL KF8836 .W4 1964x)
  • Federal Procedural Forms, Lawyer's Edition (Rochester, N.Y.: Lawyer's Cooperative Publishing Co.) 1975-. (REF COLL KF8836 .F4) 


Court Forms

Individual courts expect litigants to use specific forms published by the courts themselves. Go to the courts webpage or call the clerk's office for forms specific to that court. 

Legal Forms Databases