Legal Forms and Transactional Law Research Guide

This guide provides law students and practitioners with a variety of resources for finding model forms, sample documents, and transactional law resources.

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Introduction

Practicing lawyers often require sample versions of standard legal documents known as model forms or legal forms. These model instruments offer suggested terminology and other essential details required in formal legal documents.

This guide distinguishes between legal forms and pleading and practice forms. This guide primarily provides resources for the former. Legal forms address substantive matters, such as forms for contracts, wills, leases, etc. Pleading and practice forms provide language used in pleadings and motions filed with a court in litigation and supply language for complaints, answers, and motions. For help finding examples of pleadings and motions filed with a court, see the Briefs, Oral Arguments and Other Court Documents Research Guide.

Generally, you should use legal forms as a starting place and then tailor to your specific needs. While they are labor-saving devices for attorneys, forms are written in response to the requirements of the law in a specific transactional, jurisdictional, or procedural setting, so be sure to always check that the form has been adapted or can be adapted to comply with the requirements of the jurisdiction in which they are to be used.

There are sets of forms for federal practice, most states (check our individual state research guides under "Practice Materials" for more information), and specialized subject areas. Some form sets include annotations, checklists, and citations to cases in which the forms were used. Most law firms also maintain in-house collections of forms relating to their specific areas of practice.

As you begin drafting, keep in mind these helpful Tips for Achieving Clarity in Contract Drafting, a resource provided by the Writing Center at Georgetown University Law Center.

Getting Started

Some forms are available for use, with just some input required for your situation.

Finding Forms Using the Law Library Catalog

There are many different ways to use the catalog to find form books. A general title search that contains the words forms and the subject area you are interested in can be effective. For example, bankruptcy forms. Take note of the selected dropdown features in the search filters below.

An advanced search of the catalog where the search filters are set to "title" and "contains" and the search text is bankruptcy forms

To find form books for a particular state, you might run a subject heading search in the Law Library's catalog for the name of your state and the word forms. For example, Forms (Law) -- Virginia

An advanced search of the catalog where the search filters are set to "subject" and "is (exact)" and the search text is forms (law) Virginia

Finding Forms Online

You can find legal forms on the internet, but be wary of costs and verify the quality of the source. Some online sources include Findlaw Forms, Legal Zoom, and the IRS forms page

Recommended Form Books

Form Sets

Drafting

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Update History

Updated 11/20 (JKK)
Updated 6/23 (MK)