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Legal Electronic Resources

California Judicial Council forms are updated at least once a year.  The Court sets a drop-dead date after which the clerks will reject an obsolete Judicial Council form.  It’s important to have your staff check the Judicial Council website in January and July of each year to check for revisions at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms and click on “Recent Changes.”

At a recent meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Paralegal Studies Program at Cuesta College, we discussed legal forms software.  Law offices are using several different products.  This article is informational only, not meant to be an endorsement or indictment of any software.  The descriptions are derived from information on each product’s website or from personal use:

Legal Solutions® by West is one of the first products I used in a law office setting – the DOS version!  It’s been replaced by ProDocs®.  West is coming out with a new product called Form Builder® which will include Legal Solutions.

HotDocs® calls itself the undisputed document assembly leader.  Its speed, power, and ease of use are attractive to any size law practice.  Firms are using HotDocs to produce anything from simple letters to complex trusts and estate planning packages, all in a fraction of the time it would take to do otherwise.  HotDocs® can be used in a stand-alone environment or as part of a larger workflow, integrating with systems such as Secretariat, ProLaw, and Time Matters. HotDocs® can be deployed on a single desktop or a web-based server, depending on the extent of your needs.  I’ve used this to complete Family Law forms and appreciate the fact that certain financial data is linked from form to form.

ProDocs® by Thomson-West: with automated forms, legal documents for many practice areas can be drafted using a simple Q&A format, automatically populating repetitive information and merging data.  Forms libraries can be ordered by practice area.  A Westlaw subscription is not required but charges may apply.  If you subscribe to Westlaw, there are links that connect you to statutes relevant to the forms you’re working on to make research easy.

The San Luis Obispo County Law Library offers access to Judicial Council forms at www.courtinfo.ca.gov.  Adobe 8 is loaded on the public computers, so a Judicial Council form can be filled out and e-mailed to a personal e-mail account as a .pdf.  The computers are refreshed every night so personal information is not retained.

Another source for Judicial Council forms is www.AccessLaw.com.  It’s been my experience that they seem to have the latest revisions of the forms sooner than other software.  Use with Adobe Acrobat Reader 7 and you can save the fillable form for editing and revision.

Are you using another product and would like to share its merits or shortcomings?  Send that to ldonahue@carnaclaw.com.

Leslie Donahue     ldonahue@carnaclaw.com

Ellen Sheffer         esheffer@caranclaw.com