Nov. 7, 2018 – “Clients don’t want to hire a lawyer, they just want their legal problem solved,” says Sam Glover, founder of Lawyerist.com. In the 21st century, many companies are trying to persuade individuals that they don’t even need a lawyer’s help to solve legal problems.
But lawyers have much value to provide. Even though consumers can obtain documents directly from websites, lawyers also “provide good, reasoned, expert legal representation with sound strategy, and some assurance that if something goes wrong, they can help the client resolve the problem,” said Tom Watson of Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co. in Wisconsin Lawyer magazine.
Simple, Precise, and Up-to-date
Since the first edition was published in 1995, the Wisconsin Civil Litigation Forms Manual from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® has contributed to this client-centered goal by focusing on “simplifying the litigation process by providing attorneys with many basic, easy-to-use, sample litigation forms.”
In 1995, the basic philosophy of the Manual’s creators was “that civil litigation forms should be simple and precise. They should be written in plain and accurate language, without the use of archaic legal phrases and redundancies.”
Now recently revised and in its fourth edition, the Manual continues to adhere to this philosophy while providing forms updated to reflect technological and law practice changes along with court and legislative directives.
The newly revised edition builds on the hundreds of hours contributed by the first and second editions’ editorial committee, and review of the third and fourth editions by other experienced and knowledgeable Wisconsin lawyers.
Below are just a few examples of the meticulous attention to detail and nuance that is the hallmark of the Wisconsin Civil Litigation Forms Manual.
E-filing: Keeping Up With Fast-changing Format Requirements
Probably the most significant development for Wisconsin lawyers in the past decade has been the switch to mandatory electronic filing (e-filing) for most categories of cases.
As the Wisconsin court system irons out the wrinkles in changed processes, State Bar staff make sure the restyled formats are reflected in book forms. For example, when the Manual’s fourth edition was published in spring 2018, book forms for proposed orders that required the signature of a court official – the judge, court commissioner, clerk, or register in probate – omitted the judge’s signature block and date information. (Proposed orders for which changes are not anticipated contain a signature block at the end.)
But, in line with a new formatting requirement that court officials began using Sept. 1, 2018 (mandatory for all users starting March 1, 2019), about 20 forms in the Manual were revised (to leave a blank three-inch margin at the top of the first page where the court officials’ electronic signature and the court’s filing stamp will appear) and issued to all book owners in mid-September.
Similarly, dozens of forms that appear in the fourth edition are revised with new signature lines, because lawyers must use electronic signatures in most situations.
Discovery Limits: Fast-moving Changes
Unlike the years’ long debut of e-filing in Wisconsin circuit courts, several amendments were made to Wisconsin’s rules of civil procedure in April 2018 after only a few months’ analysis and debate.
Most of these changes, intended to limit the scope of allowable discovery, took effect July 1, 2018, and are discussed in conjunction with related forms in the Manual.
For example, Chapter 27, which contains sample interrogatories, notes the following:
“Under Wis. Stat. § 804.08(1)(am), for actions filed on or after July 1, 2018, parties are limited to a ‘reasonable number’ of requests, not to exceed 25 interrogatories, including all subparts. This limit can be altered by stipulation or court order. Attorneys also should check the local rules to determine whether they contain different limits on the number of interrogatories and subparts that may be served.”
And Chapter 29, regarding inspection of documents, things, and places, points out that the Wisconsin Legislature also added the following limitation in 2017 Wis. Act 235:
“The request [to inspect] shall be limited, unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court …, to a reasonable time period, not to exceed 5 years prior to the accrual of the cause of action. The limitation in this subdivision does not apply to requests for patient health care records, …, vocational records, educational records, or any other similar records. Wis. Stat. § 804.09(2)(a)3.”
As experienced civil litigators are aware, but novices and self-represented parties may not be, Wis. Stat. chapters 801-809 and 901-911 (the rules of evidence) are not the only sources of law governing civil trials in Wisconsin.
For example, in cases in which an individual’s health or health care is at issue, the parties must comply with federal and state privacy regulations and statutes to obtain relevant records. These laws are explicitly identified in the Manual’s Form 30.4, Authorization for Release of Health Care Records.
Chapter 30 also contains editorial-committee-generated authorizations for release of employment and education records and reprints and identifies the source of agencies’ tax- and military-record-release authorizations. (The Wisconsin Court System mandates the use of certain forms as well, and these are also clearly identified in the Manual.)
How to Order
Wisconsin Civil Litigation Forms Manual is available both in print for $249 for members and $309 for nonmembers, and online via Books UnBound®, the State Bar’s interactive online library.
Subscribers to the State Bar’s automatic supplementation service will receive future updates at a discount off the regular price.
For more information or to place an order, visit the WisBar Marketplace or call the State Bar at (800) 728-7788 or (608) 257-3838.