GPSOLO April/May 2010
Legal Checklists and Legal Checklists—Specially Selected Forms
When is a checklist not a checklist? When it’s in the form of books from West Publishing titled Legal Checklists (two volumes, $548) and Legal Checklists—Specially Selected Forms (one volume, $369). But given the amount of material jam-packed into these books, it seems a bit silly to quibble over terminology. The three volumes should be valued additions to most practitioners’ personal law libraries.
The two-volume Legal Checklists provides close to 3,500 pages of detailed outlines, each cross-referenced to the related forms in the companion volume, covering a multitude of practice areas: business formation, taxation, and financing; securities and trade regulation; administrative and judicial proceedings and trial prep; personal tax; labor and sales; bankruptcy; family matters; estate planning; commercial transactions; contracts; charitable giving; real estate; intellectual property; and a miscellaneous section with several arbitrary subjects. These outlines are what you might expect from a bar review course, if that bar review course were oriented toward practical application rather than theory. (Are you listening, boards of law examiners? I suspect there would be many better-prepared lawyers out there were bar reviews and exams patterned on this type of material!)
The companion 2,000+ page Specially Selected Forms volume, which includes a CD-ROM containing all of the forms in the book, is cross-referenced in the outlines. One small criticism of the forms from my plain-language perspective: Many contain the dreaded compound prepositions (such as “hereto,” “hereby,” “therein,” and “heretofore”) and other trappings of more arcane legal documents (for example, “whereas” clauses, use of “shall mean” instead of “means” in definitions, redundant term lists, the use of “said” instead of “the”). However, using the CD to tailor the forms to fit your own document style preferences will readily resolve that problem.
As one whose practice is primarily oriented toward small businesses, I’ve found the material in these volumes especially useful as a quick reference resource for virtually all matters in my professional repertoire. They’ve also provided a means of cross-checking my own form documents to ensure they address key areas for specific transactions (in fact, I’m considering making my own real checklists by compiling a list of topics contained in the outlines). Though clearly the outlines and forms are generic in nature (state-specific considerations are left to the user), they provide a solid foundation for virtually every aspect of transactional practice, and the sections on administrative and judicial proceedings and trial preparation are handy for those times when you may be faced with litigating client issues.
As an example of the comprehensiveness of this set, the forms book includes 28 different real estate documents. Each part of the two-volume outline set cross-references corresponding documents in the forms book.
Here’s a list of the forms you’d find in the section on employment law:
- Basic employment agreement
- Confidential disclosure agreement
- Professional service corporation employment agreement
- Executive employment agreement
- Directorship agreement
- Consulting agreement
- Separation from employment agreement
- Performing artist management agreement
- Sales representative (independent contractor)
- Development agreement
- Real estate management
- Distributorship agreement
- Administrative services agreement
This, by the way, is not the most extensive group of forms on a subject area; I’ve just used it as a fairly typical example of what you might find when you crack the binder. Each form in the set is preceded by a summary of the form’s contents and a list of all sections included in the form.
Perhaps if you concentrate your practice solely in, say, torts litigation, you’d use these volumes sparingly. But anyone who does any aspect of transactional or corporate practice (yes, even corporate litigators may realize a benefit) would be hard-pressed not to find value in these tomes.
Caveat 1: They’ll occupy a hefty chunk of shelf space in your office. The three binders combined take up over a foot in width. However, the helpful loose-leaf format means you won’t have to do a lot of heavy lifting every time you want to use them. Just pull the section you want to use and put it into its own little binder until you’re ready to return it to its big-book home.
Caveat 2: They’re not cheap; if you purchase all three volumes, expect to lay out $917 (shipping is, thankfully, free). But think about the time you’ll save using those handy outlines to cross-check your work, not to mention the fees you’ll earn from work you might have otherwise hesitated to accept owing to the few times you may have handled a particular sub-area of your practice, and it’s not too difficult to justify the expense. If you want to spread out your spending, or if you feel your practice is best served with only one of the two Legal Checklists volumes, each is sold separately; you could make three separate purchases to secure the full set.
Note: West, a Thomson Reuters business, is a corporate sponsor of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division; this article appears in connection with the Division’s sponsorship agreement with West. Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services. This review should not be construed as an endorsement. The authors of these reviews receive complimentary review copies of the products being reviewed.