When I first started practicing, each attorney used to keep their "form" files.  What were these? Copies of key documents that could be used over and over again.  Now, with the advent of computer databases, sharing information within a firm is routine and easy.

But suppose you wanted to find out what other attorneys or companies were doing; wouldn’t it be great if you could see the work product of others for free?  Turns out you can — you just need to know where to look.

Here are four websites that I routinely peek at to see what others are doing and for inspiration.

1.  Suppose that a client asks for a copy of the latest executive employment agreements.  Did you know that major corporations are required to file many of those agreements agreements with the SEC and are available for free?  In other words, you too can review contracts that were done by attorneys at all the largest US lawfirms.  One excellent (if slightly outdated) resource  that compiles such SEC filings is OneCLE.com. 

2.  Similarly, the Footnoted blog, routinely digs up nuggets from SEC filings.  On Friday, a new blogger for Footnoted, Wendy Fried, had an intriguing post about the employment agreement for Cosi’s new president.  Wendy’s other site, Proxyland, reviews other SEC filings, like Compensation Discussions and Analysis, such as this one for Gymboree.  Of course, you could just look up the SEC filings, but we’re all a little stretched for time.

3.  Although not technically "free", court databases are a great resource for lawyers is to look at what other lawfirms are filing in federal court cases.  For example, suppose you’d like to see how a lawfirm drafted a winning summary judgment motion, how do you go about doing that without knowing the case name? Two straightforward steps. First, go to the Connecticut District court opinions website and browse recent decisions by topic.  Once you locate a name or number, go to the District Court’s Electronic Court Filing system and type in the case name or number. (Registration and a nominal fee of 8 cents per page is required.)  You can easily find a motion for summary judgment in the docket listings for a case.  You can also look up exhibits that are filed as well.

4. One buzzword of late has been to set up "best practices" for employers. The EEOC issued a report a few years ago that is as valuable for ideas as ever, called, "Best Practices of Private Sector Employers".  For in-house counsel and outside counsel coming up with ideas for improving a corporations internal practices and policies, this document can provide a valuable head start. 

What are the websites that you use to get a head start on a contract or other form? Any other hidden treasures out there on the Internet?