With Free Online Forms, You Get What You Pay For

Rees Morrison, prolific blogger on all things law-department-related, posted this item about free legal forms available online. Here’s what it says:

As the online world inexorably proves that information wants to be free, in-house counsel will increasingly have more forms of agreements available online, and at no cost. One example of the genre is YourFreeLegalForms.com.

According to an email exchange I had with a business developer for the JACI Group, jack@thejacigroup.com YourFreeLegalForms currently has over 500 forms uploaded and is steadily adding more. No one will claim that sophisticated legal agreements will become a dime a dozen on the Web, but pieces of them and indeed entire agreements that are simpler and will suffice for many purposes are sure to proliferate.

The writing is on the Internet wall.

I think not.

YourFreeLegalForms.com is another docstoc. See this November 2007 post for my critique of docstoc. The problem isn’t a shortage of free legal forms online. Instead, it’s that there’s available online for free a vast and ever-growing supply of contract models, most of them crappy, and separating what’s OK, in terms of language and substance, from what’s not OK is a gruesome task. Free online forms are hardly a panacea.

Furthermore, if I ever need to consult examples of a given kind of business contract, I’m going to go to the motherlode, the SEC’s EDGAR system. (See this post and this post.) By comparison, YourFreeLegalForms offers a puny assortment, and I wouldn’t bet on its getting much more plausible over time.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.