Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Free Legal Forms Online

Adams Drafting, a blawg of interest primarily to business attorneys, has an interesting post and following discussion regarding the use, misuse, and dangers of free legal forms found on the Internet or elsewhere: With Free Online Forms, You Get What You Pay For. Excerpts:
The problem isn’t a shortage of free legal forms online. Instead, it’s that there’s available online for free a vast and ever-growing supply of contract models, most of them crappy, and separating what’s OK, in terms of language and substance, from what’s not OK is a gruesome task....

I see the problem as being not that the documents are inherently incorrect in themselves - I’m sure the good sites produce very sound documents - but that they are drafted in the abstract. If a person pulls a document from any standard database - whether one of these sites or their own firm’s standards - it will be blind luck if it actually works for the agreement they are trying to draft for without amendment. Then there seem to be three options:

(i) The document as just used as-is - the document is unlikely to fit the deal.
(ii) A non-lawyer makes some changes. The problem here is the risk of unintended legal consequences of a change.
(iii) A lawyer reviews it. Clearly the issue here is cost.

I suppose people just need to balance those factors, but for any deal worth anything significant, it is likely to be worth having a lawyer have a look, at which point it is more cost-effective for them to use their own standards.
See also Factual Error Found On the Internet, The Onion, 2002.

1 comment:

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