Updated: Jul 16
Finding and downloading legal documents is easier and cheaper than ever. But are form-based services a substitute for hiring a lawyer? It depends on what you need. A lot of free forms are provided on court websites or at the clerk's desk. But those forms, like form-based services, often don't come with explanations on how and when to use them. Further, many form-based services don't include state-specific provisions. Therefore, with form-based services, you risk overlooking something crucial.
Form-based services might be a good idea if you need a starting point, like for a letter or to get you started with a legal process.
When it comes to protecting your interests and complying with state-specific laws, forms usually aren't enough unless you want to pay extra.
Having an attorney helps you explore all your options, protect your interests, get the correct information, and comply with state laws.
Some attorneys offer limited scope services which can be a more affordable way of getting legal help.
Form-based services might be a good idea if you need a starting point, like for a letter or to get you started with a legal process. But when it comes to protecting your interests and complying with state-specific laws, forms usually aren't enough unless you want to pay extra. Many form-based services are also more expensive than they lead you to believe. Some require you to enroll in a subscription plan or pay extra to ask questions.
Pros & Cons of Using Forms
Cheaper than hiring an attorney
Usually, easy to use.
Helpful for starting the legal process
Don't consider individual needs or situations
Might not comply with state laws
Don't usually provide clear instructions or explanations on use
Might require spending more money to get full use
Pitfalls of Forms
Most forms are meant for general use and have generic terms. A downloadable form contract for marketing services, for example, might state something like, "Provider agrees to provide Client with marketing services for their business." That's very vague. Language like that won't help you if there's a disagreement about what "marketing services" means. The client might think your services include writing blog articles and making social media posts when the provider intended only to do email campaigns. If there is a disagreement, the last thing you want is an unclear contract. As a result, having the form isn't enough. You need to know what information should be included and how to protect your interests.
Why You Should Talk to an Attorney
Attorneys use forms all the time. But they understand what information to include, how to file these firms, and when to do so. Many form-based services provide a bunch of documents but little or no guidance on how to use them. People frequently file a jumble of documents with the court and become frustrated when they are rejected or don't get the desired result. And doing the necessary research can further complicate matters. A procedural error can be fatal or cause major delays in a case.
If you have a legal issue, you should at least talk with a local attorney. Many attorneys offer free consultations. They can at the very least explain your options and the complexities of your situation. Some law firms, such as Martuch Law, offer limited scope (a/k/a unbundled) services if you cannot afford full representation. With limited scope services, you only pay an attorney to do a specific task, such as preparing legal forms or giving you legal advice about a narrow issue. Hiring an attorney ensures that you get the correct information that is specific to your needs. It's like trying to g answers from an automated menu versus talking to a person.
Martuch Law offers free consultations. You can schedule an appointment online or by calling.
1437 S. Boulder Ave., Suite 1200
Tulsa, OK 74119