Public Service “All I need is a Form” Questions: Hot on the heels of my forms copyright posting, here’s one for members of the public. Non-attorneys frequently come into libraries and ask for “Forms.” (Sometimes there are “forms” and we can provide or refer. But this is extremely rare. Legal forms in Oregon are about as thin on the ground as 18-24 year-old voters.) While it seems simple enough to say, “We don’t have forms,” it is not an acceptable Public Law Librarian answer, at least without continuing the conversation to determine exactly what is needed. But the alternative is cumbersome. How do you explain without a long dissertation things like this:
“Well, we have sample forms, though it might take you some time to locate the one you need. Oh, your friend’s attorney told you to look for a form called xxx? Well, did you talk to that attorney? Does the attorney know exactly what your situation is? No? Um, no there isn’t a form called that or even a little bit like that.
[After showing them a few books with sample forms.] You think this is the form? Are you sure? Are you really sure? [It couldn’t possibly be.] No, you can’t just fill it in, but yes, you could copy it and use it as a guide. I’m not an attorney so I don’t know if this is the right form. No, it might not apply exactly to your situation, though yes, it could still be helpful but you need to sit and read it carefully first to decide or make a copy and find someone to advise you.
[And then of course we have to set out all the caveats.] Do you know what this form will do? Would you like a book on powers of attorney, advance directives, etc., etc., etc.? No? It’s too complicated? Are you sure it’s the right form or the form you want? Ah, you might want to consult an attorney before completing and signing the form. Have you ever talked to an attorney before? Would you like a book on how to work with attorneys? We have a couple of helpful ones. Oh, you don’t know where to find an attorney? Have you tried the OSB Referral and Information Service? Yes? Oh, they weren’t at all helpful. Well, maybe you want to try phoning them again. They rely a lot on volunteer help and maybe another person on the phone at a different time will help. Oh. Well, do you have anyone in your family or a friend who has hired an attorney and might be able to help you with a referral? No?”
You see, it’s not easy being a helpful public law librarian.