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Locating Legal Information in Primary and Secondary Resources: #5: Introduction to Legal Forms

How to use specific legal resources.

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Introduction to Legal Forms

Howard W. Hunter Law Library

Legal Research Guide #5

Introduction to Legal Forms

Lawyers spend much of their time drafting legal documents.  Many different form books have been published to assist lawyers with document drafting.  Form books are valuable as a starting point, but must be carefully tailored to meet individual needs. Specific court requirements must also be complied with.  It is up to you to determine which form to use. 

Form books may be divided into two main categories: substantive (such as business documents, leases, contracts, and wills); and procedural (forms intended for court proceedings, such as complaints, answers, and counterclaims).

Substantive Form Books

Some of the major substantive form books are American Jurisprudence Legal FormsNichols Cyclopedia of Legal Forms, Annotated, and Current Legal Forms (Rabkin & Johnson).

All of these are multi-volume sets. They are thoroughly indexed and updated with supplements that contain new and revised forms.

Procedural Form Books

Some of the major procedural form books are American Jurisprudence Pleading and Practice Forms AnnotatedFederal Procedural Forms, Lawyers Edition,  Federal Practice Forms (Bender’s), and Nichols Cyclopedia of Federal Procedure Forms. Procedural form books are intended for use in court proceedings. The format for pleadings is closely regulated by individual courts.  Court rules for each particular state specify content and format requirements.

American Jurisprudence Pleading and Practice Forms Annotated focuses on pleadings and related documents (both state and federal) related to court proceedings.

Federal Procedural Forms, Lawyers Edition,  Federal Practice Forms (Bender’s), and Nichols Cyclopedia of Federal Procedure Forms are multi-volume federal form books.  Some include pertinent federal rules.  All are updated with pocket parts or looseleaf filings.  These are all located in the Reference Collection on the second floor.

(Federal Procedural Forms, Lawyers Edition includes some forms for administrative proceedings.)

Utah Procedural Forms

There are even specific procedural forms for the state of Utah. Look in the index for the Utah Code Annotated, under the word “Forms,” for a listing of forms. You can also look for forms at the end of each set of rules in the court rules volume of the Utah Code Annotated.

Two additional sources of Utah procedural forms are as follows. David A. Thomas, Utah Civil Practice. Charlottesville, Va.: Michie Co. (call number: RESERVE KFU 528.T465). This book covers virtually every aspect of conducting civil litigation in Utah.  It includes an overview of Utah’s legal system and sample forms.  Chapters address such issues as preparing a complaint, commencing the action, and motions. Utah Domestic Relations Manual, Waine Riches, ed. Salt Lake City: Utah Legal Services, Inc., 2002 (call number: RESERVE KFU 100.Z9.D654 2002). This is a “How To” manual with suggestions for the practitioner and sample pleadings in many areas.  Includes sections on marriage, adoption, guardianship, paternity, protective orders, neglect, divorce, termination of parental rights, custody, visitation and support, plus many more. 


The law library has materials that will help in doing pretrial discovery.  One is called Bender’s Forms of Discovery (KF8900.Z3.B45). It provides help in writing interrogatories. Another is called Pattern Deposition Checklists (KF8900.D3).

Trials and Hearings

There are sets of books that help in preparing for hearings or trials. Some instruct us on how to prove the elements of various types of cases. Samples are included. These sets are American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts (located at shelf 2:08), Shepard’s Causes of Action (KF8863.S53).

Another, as its name implies, provides information on how to conduct trials for various types of case. Samples are included. It is American Jurisprudence Trials (located at shelf 2:09).

Criminal Cases

There is a looseleaf set that helps with all stages of a criminal case. It is called Complete Manual of Criminal Forms (LOOSELEAF COLLECTION KF9616.B34).

Jury Instructions

The law library also has sample instructions that are intended to be read to the jury to inform them about the law related to their case. One set is Reid’s Branson Instructions to Juries (KF8984.B73). It includes instructions for both civil and criminal cases. Another set isFederal Jury Practice and Instructions (KF8984.D4). It includes federal civil and criminal instructions.

Utah has a set of civil and criminal jury instructions. It is called Model Utah Jury Instructions (MUJI).

Locating Legal Forms

To locate legal forms, make sure you know the basics about your situation (e.g., what you want the form to accomplish and what laws apply). Consider the type of form you need (e.g., a pleading form or a model contract). Decide which form book would be best. Locate that form book in the law library. Find the appropriate form within the appropriate volume. Check for updates. And modify the form, as needed, to comply with the laws and procedures of your jurisdiction. 

Some forms are available on the Law Library's Westlaw Patron Access account.


(Last Revised 3/6/2013)


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