If you begin practice as a solo practitioner, the cost of doing business will be of prime concern; any expenditure that can be reduced will improve the bottom line. As a member of the state bar association, you will have access to a legal database service (Fastcase in Alabama and most of the southeast, Casemaker concentrating in the northeast and parts of the Midwest) that has fewer bells and whistles than the premium services of Lexis and Westlaw. Fastcase, at least currently, does not provide access to legal forms—a prime feature of Lexis and Westlaw. How do you find such forms without paying for them?
Perhaps the most important option for any attorney would be the state administrative office of the courts. Alabama Administrative Office of the Courts provides forms at eforms.alacourt.gov. This resource would be the most authoritative option to find forms—the courts, themselves! It includes appellate forms, criminal forms, local county forms (including Jefferson and Shelby counties), municipal forms, “do it yourself forms,” and many others. Other states provide such forms, such as Tennessee (tncourts.gov/forms-publications), though some states do not organize them at one location on their office’s website.
Another intriguing option is a resource available to all Alabamians through the state’s online library service called “Alabama Virtual Library” (AVL). Access to AVL’s databases is available to anyone within the state. After locating the homepage (avl.lib.al.us), click on “College & University” near the top of the screen; the resulting alphabetical list of databases includes “Gale LegalForms”. When accessing this database through AVL, you will be provided with a selection of Alabama-specific legal forms of all kinds. Should you consult this listing first, before checking out the forms of Alabama Administrative Office of Courts? Definitely not—the court’s forms will be much more likely to be current and valid; however, if forms cannot be found at the court website, this is likely to be your best resource for free forms. Gale LegalForms are actually a product of U.S. Legal Forms, which also provides its product to Casemaker legal database, mentioned earlier in this article. The forms it provides covers many subject areas—divorce, wills and estates, real estate, bankruptcy, landlord and tenant, power of attorney, incorporation, paternity, corporate forms, among many others. This is also a resource you may also want to refer non-clients who insist upon doing their own legal work!
If you have any questions about the services mentioned above, please consult a reference librarian at Beeson Law Library.