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There are really only two ways to go in balancing the use of forms or precedent on the one hand, and original drafting, on the other hand. You can start with the precedent and modify it accordingly, or you can start with your own drafting and look to the precedent to make sure that you didn't leave out anything relevant or important. In any case, it is risky to write a fairly commonplace document without any reference to the work of lawyers who have gone before, so the only real issue when in the process you crank up your brain.

My old firm, Latham & Watkins, had oodles of forms with blanks and countless transactions, so it was rarely necessary to think up entirely new words. The trick was to avoid using the precedent as a crutch. I remember that many of the forms used to have bold legends in the instructions, to wit: "Remember, no form is a substitute for thinking." Probably good advice in many jobs, but absolutely so for transactional lawyers.

I must say, I love your blog, your writing, and your spirit. Good luck with it!

David Giacalone

I was just going to say all the things Jack said about using forms -- they really can be convenient checklists.

What you can add to the effort is (a) your ability to say many of the points more clearly; and (b) your own insight into additional issues that may be needed in your case or irrelevant ones that can be omitted.

Reinventing the wheel is often the sign of inexperience, and is very inefficient. Knowing when to borrow is a sign of maturing into your role as a lawyer and growing in confidence. Three year-olds may insist on doing everything for themselves, but third-year associates shouldn't.

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