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Free Legal Forms, Documents, Templates & Free Online Legal Tools : Are They Really Helpful?

Updated on June 14, 2009
Legal document programs and websites boast that they'll save you $600/hour from paying a legal team like this.
Legal document programs and websites boast that they'll save you $600/hour from paying a legal team like this.

Some things to consider before you start utilizing free printable legal forms, documents & templates online

Ever since the introduction of personal computers, "do it yourself" legal services, via printing off free legal forms, templates & documents have become widely available to your average joe. They boast time saving features and more importantly, huge monetary savings. No longer do you have to pay your attorney $300/hour to have his paralegal draft an agreement for you!

  • Is it a good idea to prepare legal forms or documents yourself?
  • Are all legal forms equal?
  • What are some things you should know about preparing your own free legal forms?

This article will review some precautions and considerations that you should take before utilizing free legal forms, documents and templates. Remember - free legal tools aren't always the best tools for your particular situation.

Helpful tips for your legal forms

  • Save money by downloading and printing out free online legal forms and hiring your attorney to review them. This will save money as less time will be needed to prepare your documents.
  • Consider hiring a paralegal that is certified to do legal document preparation. If your issue does not require legal advice but requires legal paperwork, look in your local phonebook or online for 'freelance' paralegals. They charge a lot less per hour than an attorney does.
  • Remember, if you use your own free legal forms or templates and you receive less than desirable results, you will have no recourse like you would with a real attorney. You wouldn't be able to sue the distributor of free legal documents for malpractice.

If using free legal forms and templates can save me money, I should do it!

Not necessarily. I'm not discouraging you to look around and see what is out there in the world of free legal document templates. Some of them are actually quite good. Looking around at various legal documents can give you a good idea of what you need to understand about the issue that you're currently facing.

But, you absolutely should consider taking these following questions into consideration:

  • What are your legal document needs? If you think you can easily file for a divorce by using a few free legal forms, think again. In many states, you can file on your own, but simple errors can equal out to big problems for you later on.
  • Will this legal document template be applicable in your state? Remember, laws and therefore document preparation will vary from state to state and in some instances, county to county.
  • Is it prepared to fully cover all the necessary terms of your agreement? Since free legal documents aren't customized to your particular needs, you could be leaving out absolutely crucial parts of an agreement that you might not consider since you are not under advisement from an attorney specializing in your field. By the time you find out that a part of your contract was absolutely crucial, it's probably because the other side found a loophole in your signed paperwork and now you'll have no choice but to hire an attorney.
  • Is it professionally written? "Legalese", the language of the legal profession, is not something that a typical individual, even an English major, can correctly prepare. Therefore, your free legal document may not be written correctly and you may not even realize it. I've browsed around on several legal document websites and have found ones with subtle grammar and language errors.
  • When was this document written? Laws change frequently. Your free document may not reflect current statutes or even currently practiced procedures in the legal world.

Things to remember about free legal forms and documents

In closing, never use documents if you are truly not sure if they will cover your needs. It is simply not worth the hassle to save a few dollars if your free legal forms or documents won't even protect you.

Have You Ever Used Free Legal Document Software?

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What Are Your Experiences With Free Legal Documents?

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    • Dorrene R profile image

      Dorrene R 8 years ago

      This is very helpful and informative. Thanks very much!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi girly_girl, our paths crossed again! CONGRATS! Yehey, this hub is a hubnugget nominee! :-) Click this link and vote:

      Thanks for this informative advice. Much needed.

    • CADarko profile image

      CADarko 8 years ago from Northeastern PA, USA

      Informative and to the point. Good advice.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      Great Hub! A perfect balance between boring us with too much detail and leaving out anything important. Pithy. Good advice that is timely.

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      Think that maybe they could be useful, in as much as, correalating necessary answers and paperwork before seeking legal advice, just to save time on both sides.

    • girly_girl09 profile image

      girly_girl09 8 years ago from United States

      You're very welcome. Some free legal documents can be VERY helpful to businesses or landlords, for example, but sometimes they can be very detrimental if you're not an expert in the field. Many attorneys will be more than glad to review and fine tune documents that you prepare ahead of time.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      What a sensible hub, I will try to remember your advice next time I need a doc. Thnx