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How To: Drafting Legal Documents: Home

Tips for drafting legal documents for your law practice.

Guide Outline

Home

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

Formbooks

  • 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

Introduction

If you’re going to practice law, you’re going to draft legal documents. No matter what type of practice you pursue, drafting will be an integral part of your daily work: Civil litigators draft complaints, other pleadings, interrogatories, jury instructions, settlement agreements, appellate briefs, etc. Criminal lawyers draft plea agreements, motions in limine, writs of habeas corpus, appellate briefs, etc. Transactional attorneys draft contracts of all types, leases, promissory notes, articles of incorporation, etc. Even more than doing research, you will find that legal drafting is in many ways the very definition of practicing law.

Although every document you create will likely be unique unto its situation, it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel every time you sit down to draft. This research guide is intended to provide you with an overview of some of the most useful resources for attorneys in drafting legal documents.

"Just Show Me..."

The best guidance for legal drafting is usually seeing an example done by someone else. As a legal term of art, these exemplars are called forms. Although such examples will never be perfectly tailored to your unique situation, they usually provide enough information to get you started on your own drafting.

Forms are available in many...well, forms:

  • Commercially published formbooks provide general drafting information, as well as forms specific to subject, jurisdiction, and document type.
  • Court-prepared forms are standardized forms provided by courts for frequently used pleadings or other court procedures. 
  • Your institution may have an in-house databank in which legal documents prepared by attorneys have been archived as forms.
  • Your colleagues may have ideas about where to find forms.
  • The matter file may contain documents that can be used as forms.
  • Your own forms file can be a good source of information.

For Further Reading...

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