Forms in the United States

There are at least five kinds of forms that most affect legal practice – (1) the kind published in Form Books that publishers sell to law firms and law libraries, (2) the kind produced by commercial publishers and provided individually either free or for-fee for the use of lawyers; (3) the kind sold to the general public for basic legal matters and (4) the kind written by courts, administrative agencies, etc., that lawyers fill out and submit to the court, agency, etc. and (5) sample documents actually used in the course of legal practice.

1. Form Books: Form books contain sample forms that lawyers can use as models for drawing up contracts, pleadings, and other documents in the course of their work. There are several kind of form books, but generally they are either business-related or practice related. Many form books are published as multi-volume sets.

The largest form book sets try to cover all the major business subjects or all types of litigation for all jurisdictions. Of these, American Jurisprudence Legal Forms (business) and American Jurisprudence Pleading and Practice Forms Annotated (litigation) comes first to my mind. Together they take up a whole book case in print; they are also available on Westlaw (AMJUR-LF and AMJUR-PP, respectively). Lexis offers Rabkin and Johnson’s Current Legal Forms (business) and Moore’s Federal Litigation Online Forms (litigation).

Some form books are written specifically to satisfy situations created by a state’s statutes. For example, Bender’s Forms for the Consolidated Laws of the State of New York Annotated is written and organized to compliment the laws of New York State.

Some state-specific form books are practice-oriented. They are written to assist litigators in a particular jurisdiction, and hence they are written and organized according to the stages and litigation procedures of that state. The Carmody-Wait Cyclopedia of New York Practice With Forms set serves this purpose in New York.

Some form books are subject-specific. Popular corporate & securities-related Form Book sets include Rabkin & Johnson’s Current Legal Forms, Contemporary Corporation Forms, and Fletcher Corporation Forms Annotated. Some treatises include forms, though you could never tell by the title; for example, Mancoff & Weiner’sNonqualified Deferred Compensation Arrangements provides a form for just about every type of arrangement covered.

If you are looking for basic forms for laymen, NOLO publishes several, including 101 Forms for Personal Use.

Generally I’ve just looked in the indexes of the form books in my library, but I’ve also used Indexmaster to find books with specific forms or searched the master database of form books on Westlaw (use the “FormFinder” for the most forms; use FORMS-ALL to search forms and discussions of forms). If that doesn’t get you what you need, search the sources listed in the “Legal Treatises” entry.

2. Commercial Forms Collections: Some Web sites feature free forms collections including LexisNexis Communities and the ‘Lectric Law Library’s Form Room. The subscription-based ALI-ABA Forms Library taken from ALI-ABA course outlines, books and journals and includes information about using many of the forms.

Blumberg Legal Forms sells subpoenas, notices, contracts, leases and other forms for use primarily by attorneys. Most Blumberg forms are designed for use in a particular state.3. Direct-to-Consumer Legal Forms: Some companies publish legal forms for sale to the general public. These generally concern some kind of transaction where the parties prefer not to hire a lawyer such as generic wills, uncontested divorces, deeds and leases. For example, sells forms to non-lawyers who want to do their own legal drafting. LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are popular alternatives to hiring attorneys.

4. Government Forms: Courts, administrative agencies and other government bodies generate an astonishing number of forms. You can generally find these forms on the relevant web court/agency web site site or by contacting the relevant court/agency. Links to court forms are posted by Justia, LLRX and FindLaw. Also, most Federal forms are posted by the GPO or

5. Sample Document Databases: In many cases a practitioner may find a better “form” by searching a database of documents actually used in the practice of law. For example, Lexis Securities Mosaic, LIVEDGAR and other SEC filings databases are an excellent sources for sample SEC filings, and the exhibits can serve as model agreements. Lexis and Westlaw offers databases of sample pleading, briefs and motions. To distinguish, Lexis editors select the documents for their databases, while Westlaw includes all the documents they can download from court Web sites.

For more specific information, check out the entry for the particular court, agency, or subject in question.

Practical Information

A term that refers to practice manuals, books of legal forms, and forms files. Forms are also called “printed law blanks.”

Practice Manuals

Books that contain forms of pleadings, which the lawyer usually follows. Since the wording of pleadings differs with the state, a practice manual is used only n the state for which it is prepared. With the aid of a practice manual, the practitioner can draft many pleadings. The forms always indicate by italics by parentheses, or in some other manner, the wording that must be changed with each case, such as names, dates and various clauses applicable to a particular situation. In addition to the complete forms, the manuals contain many clauses applicable to various circumstances, which may be substituted for the clauses contained in the complete form.

Books of Legal Forms

Information for historical purposes: Books that contain forms of instruments and documents as distinguished from litigation papers. Although the statutes prescribe the wording of many instruments, books of legal forms are generally useful for all states. They call attention to statutory requirements and often give forms for each state. For example, Jones Legal Forms Annotated, published by BobbsMerrill. Indianapolis, one of the best known books of legal forms, gives forms of acknowledgments, deeds, mortgages, and wills that meet the requirements of each state. Some forms books cover only forms in one particular field. Numerous clauses, as well as complete forms, enable the user to pick out the appropriate clause to suit his or her purpose. In giving instructions for the preparation of a legal instrument, the lawyer frequently tells the secretary to copy certain forms or clauses from a forms book.

Forms Files

Files that contain frequently used forms set up alphabetically in folders for ease of access. A well organized forms file saves time for the lawyer and the secretary. For example, a lawyer with an extensive practice in probate law would have in his or her forms file the recommended forms for probate of an estate. These forms vary from state to state; in Arkansas for instance, some 23 forms might be used in the probate of an estate. Which forms are applicable depends on the circumstances in each case.

Printed Law Blanks

Commercially prepared legal instruments set up in printed form, with blank spaces to be filled in with specific information. For example, a printed law blank of a mortgage (in U.S. law) or deed (in U.S. law) will need only to be filled in with the necessary information to complete the document, such as the names of the parties and the description of the property being mortgaged or sold.
Printed law blanks were widely used in drawing up legal instruments. Law blank printers published in the past a catalog showing the numbers and titles of the blanks that they print. Each law blank has its title and, usually, the printer’s catalog number, printed in small letters on it. (Revised by Ann De Vries, 1982)

Finding Securities Forms

Note: Be sure to check the currency, coverage, and status (official or unofficial) of all sources.

Some sources listed on this entry may not contain all forms issued by the SEC, but the list on this entry provides suggestions for where to look for forms.

  • SEC Forms are published in the Federal Register. For information on locating the Federal Register, please see the Summer Guide to Federal Administrative Law Research. This has a chart that lists the different places you can find the Federal Register, in print and online.
  • You also can find forms in CCH’s Federal Securities Law Reporter looseleaf and the electronic version of the Federal Securities Law Reporter. (Non-commercial use only; Harvard ID and pin required.) After clicking on the link above, click on “CCH Business & Finance Research Network,” then on “Enter” and then click on the “Securities” tab.
  • You can find information about the different types of forms on the SEC’s page about forms. You also can find pdf versions of the forms on SEC’s forms list page, and you can find html versions of some forms on the SEC’s Forms and Associated Regulations page. To obtain more general information, see the SEC EDGAR page.

Note that many firms file electronically using EDGAR, so you may want to check with your firm to see if they already have electronic copies of relevant forms.

Form A Applications

When a company wants to take over an insurance company, it has to file a Form A Application for Approval of Acquisition with the insurance department of each state where the insurance company does business. The filing is handled by an office within the insurance department usually called something like “Compliance” or “Financial Monitoring.”

In most states, the Form A is a confidential filing, Texas being a notable exception (call 512-305-7210 to get Texas Form As).

See Also

Legal Treatises

Employer Provided Insurance Offer and Coverage I.R.S. Form 1095-C and Tax Law

There are more details about Employer Provided Insurance Offer and Coverage I.R.S. Form 1095-C in thetax compilation of the legal Encyclopedia.

Forms and the Immigration Court

This area covers the following:

Additional Information

Read about the issue in this American legal Encyclopedia.

Forms Generally

Find out more information on this area in this resource.

Obtaining Blank Forms

Read about the issue in this American legal Encyclopedia.

Submitting Completed Forms

Forms and the Immigration Court

This area covers the following:

Additional Information

Read about the issue in this American legal Encyclopedia.

Forms Generally

Find out more information on this area in this resource.

Obtaining Blank Forms

Read about the issue in this American legal Encyclopedia.

Submitting Completed Forms

Battle of the Forms Explained


See Also

  • Contracts

Forms: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Forms. This part provides references, in relation to Forms, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Forms by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Forms and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Forms or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Forms and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Forms. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Forms should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Forms when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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