Volume 11, no. 1
Sharing Forms Libraries in the Ether
By jennifer j. rose
The greatest tool in a lawyer’s arsenal isn’t reputation, knowledge of the law, or a book of clients. It’s that file of forms developed throughout the years. There’s no shortage of books on forms, model pleadings, and checklists, but buying the books and finding the right form taxes a lawyer’s time, budget, and patience. And most solo and small firm lawyers, especially new ones, simply don’t have that library of material that larger firms enjoy.
Oh sure, there’s the time-honored method of digging through court files to find someone else’s work, and begging other lawyers to share copies of prize-winning briefs, letters, and forms. But now there’s an even easier way to tap into the legal collective. More than 1,000 lawyers subscribe to the ABA’s online mailing list Solosez, sponsored by the General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division ( www.solosez.net.) It all started with subscribers posting requests for a form notice of unavailability or a sample employment manual; others chimed in, asking for the same. Sending it as an e-mail attachment or pasting it as text to a list-serve message just wasn’t a very good solution. What was needed was a collective forms file. Solo lawyer Neal Kennedy of Marble Falls, Texas, came up with the solution: a documents repository at MyDocsOnline ( www.mydocsonline.com), which provides Internet-based file storage and collaboration services.
He passed the hat, taking contributions from interested Solosez subscribers, and bought an account for online file storage, sharing the user name and password with the other Solosez solo and small firm lawyers who can access, share, and upload files. So great was the enthusiasm for this project that the contributions paid for several years’ worth of service, increased storage space, and multiple accounts.
What’s in the library? Intake forms, client questionnaires, bankruptcy retainer agreements, nonprofit clauses, independent contractor agreements, demand letters, a hunting lease, and an Illinois home remodeling contract. Of course, there are no guarantees that any of the documents are proven and accurate, but isn’t that a risk assumed by anyone snooping at anyone else’s work product?
It’s like poking through the filing cabinets of 1,134 other lawyers. Better yet, no one knows when you’ve made a “withdrawal.” Too bad Solosez and MyDocsOnline weren’t around a decade back when a young lawyer came to me and asked in strictest confidence for a garnishment form because he didn’t want his employer to know that he didn’t know how to draft one.
jennifer j. rose is editor-in-chief of GPSolo magazine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.