Canadian Legal Forms: Update and Gripes!

Canadian Legal Forms

I’m pleased to say that we’ve been slowly building our inventory of legal form + video guide packages. We started off just over 1 year ago, introducing about 11 forms only for Ontario. Then we grew that to almost 30 forms by the end of 2010. Then, starting in 2011, we undertook to expand our legal forms to other provinces, as well as add new forms in different legal areas. That’s why we’re currently at 114 legal form packages. What’s next in the pipeline? Well, we’re hoping to have close to 160 legal forms for every province in the next 3-4 months. Those legal forms will include: residential lease agreements, share purchase agreements, employment contracts, promissory notes, and option to purchase real estate agreements. We currently only have a residential lease agreement for Ontario, but we want to expand that package to other provinces.

Others just don’t cut it…

I was browsing the internet (as I do every now and then) and I saw a residential lease agreement being offered by another website. As I’ve spoken about in a previous post, you want to be careful when purchasing legal forms online. There are lots of things to consider. This website made me think of how things can go wrong when you buy standard legal forms. And I want to share my thoughts here.

Not based on local laws…

First, this website didn’t account for local laws. That’s a big no-no. I was looking at downloading a residential lease agreement. The website asked me whether I wanted to include a no-pets clause. In Ontario, these clauses are unenforceable. They are meaningless if you try to enforce them as a grounds for terminating the lease. Indeed, in Ontario, you can only terminate the lease pursuant to the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006. And having pets just aint one of those grounds! So you have a meaningless term in a contract. Now, did I expect this website to ensure that its residential lease agreement to comply with Ontario laws? Sure I did! I live in Ontario. I don’t want my agreement to be invalid and unenforceable. But the nameless corporation that created it (actually, the website was put together by a nameless marketing company) didn’t think to make their forms meaningful by trying to ensure that they comply with local laws.

A Nameless Company…

This leads me to my next complaint about this particular website: who was behind it? A nameless marketing company. Great. What if I had a question about the form. What if I needed a lawyer to review it for me after I had customized it? Would this nameless company get involved? Would it review it? Could they tell me something about the law? Could they tell me how to customize the form? Unlikely. So there’s no added value. Anyone can THINK of creating a legal forms service online by putting together forms from a number of places. But are they any good? Do you know the difference between clear, concise and meaningfully drafted contracts and legalese jibberish? You would if you compared the two. But comparing legal forms is not easy if you have to buy them first. That’s why we allow you to see a 1 page sample in almost all of our legal forms before you purchase them. Go ahead: check out the top nav menu and select a typical legal form. Then click on the first image on the left.

No Guidance…

My final gripe with this website that was offering residential lease agreements was the fact that they gave users no guidance on how to complete the form. What should the end user know or at least think about when filling out and using the form? How can the form be challenged? Does it matter if a lawyer prepared the form (it helps, for sure, but it’s not determinative of whether the form will or will not get challenged). The bottom line is that you will typically ask a lawyer to educate you on the law and why a particular provision in a legal form is there. They will then give you a brief explanation. But if you pay them by the hour (typically, $300-$400 or more), a lawyer will provide you with a detailed memo outlining the various things you should be aware of. I’ll be the first to admit: it’s not always easy to sit there and listen to a lawyer distill an hour or legal jargon into your ear; it’s easier to read it on your own time and digest it over a longer period of time. The bottom line is that, while you could end up spending thousands of dollars on a customized, lawyer-prepared agreement that is written clearly and concisely to address your situation, you could also try doing it yourself if your situation is straightforward and you’re tech savvy enough. You can download a lawyer-prepared template with a ton of guidance (video guide, ebooks, etc.) and even pay a bit more to have a lawyer review it. You don’t have to scour the internet for questionable information on your legal form: that guidance comes with it on this website! The work is done! And it’s available to you for a fraction of the cost that it would normally be!

So there you have it: my complaints about other legal forms websites…

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