It’s Not About Forms

One thing that I notice as I interact with people on the web, they all seem to think handling a lawsuit is just about forms.

It's not.

While there are definitely some forms that are used, a lawsuit of any kind is substantially more than that.

When I was a young lawyer, the first person I worked for walked into my office on the first day there and placed two stacks of files on the desk.

"Handle these," was all he said before he turned and walked out.

One thing you realize as a new lawyer is that you don't actually know anything.  A judge once told me that for the first year or two that a lawyer is practicing they are a "walking malpractice case". The reason is that law school teaches you two things. 1) How to take the bar exam and 2) How to think like a lawyer. What they don't teach you is how to handle cases.  What do you do when a client calls you from jail at 1:00 in the morning and wants  you to get them out, what do you do when your client's soon to be ex is clearing out the bank accounts, etc.

Back to the first day of practice.

I looked at the files and then went to his office. 

"Do you have a form to file a divorce?" I asked.

The older lawyer leaned back in his chair and looked at me for a moment, then pulled a copy of the Family Code from his bookshelf and tossed it to me.

"Look up the section on the divorce petition and then use the statute to tell you what needs to be in the petition. Before you start using forms you need to understand why they have the stuff in them."

It was a great piece of advice because it forced me to think through why you tell the court where the parties live and how long they are there, why it says there is no hope of reconciliation, etc.

The people who are trying to represent themselves (pro se or pro per) should stay away from forms until they live and learn the statutes. It's okay to take a form to look at, but read the statutes and law and understand why the information is in there, that way when something pops up you understand the concepts involved and can handle it.

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