Legal Forms As Rhetorical Transaction: Competency in the Context of Information and Efficiency

52 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2011 Last revised: 4 Apr 2012

See all articles by Kirsten K. Davis

Kirsten K. Davis

Stetson University College of Law

Date Written: Spring 2011


The increased production of legal forms by commercial publishers, the electronic availability of lawyer-produced documents through subscription-based and free Internet sites, and the increasing number of institutionally approved forms is creating a paradoxical and challenging environment for principled form use by lawyers. On the one hand, courts, legislatures, and administrative agencies, for example, encourage, and even require, the use of forms in the practice of law. Commercial publishers tout the benefits of form use to sell legal formbooks and to entice lawyers to access subscription databases filled with contracts, pleadings, briefs, and motions. On the other hand, the same entities that encourage form use in some circumstances sternly admonish lawyers for using or relying on forms in others.

As the time constraints on lawyers become greater, legal practice becomes more global and multi-jurisdictional, and information increases exponentially and becomes more difficult to manage, lawyers, particularly lawyers new to practice or new to a particular practice area need to develop a principled approach to legal form use to ensure forms are used competently. This article explores legal forms and proposes a rhetorical approach to understanding and using forms. This approach is unique because it uses rhetorical theory to define and categorize legal forms, and it offers specific suggestions for competent legal form use based on rhetorical theory.

Keywords: Legal Writing. Professional Responsibility, Ethics

JEL Classification: K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Davis, Kirsten K., Legal Forms As Rhetorical Transaction: Competency in the Context of Information and Efficiency (Spring 2011). University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review, Vol. 79, No. 3, Spring 2011 ; Stetson University College of Law Research Paper No. 2011-11. Available at SSRN:

Kirsten K. Davis (Contact Author)

Stetson University College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States
727-562-7877 (Phone)

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