Martin Dean’s Essential Forms wasn’t made for collaboration. Here’s why that’s a problem.

While Martin Dean’s Essential Forms software was a helpful step forward for attorneys when it was first introduced, the computing world has moved on from the days of shipping CD-ROMs in the mail. But more relevant to you: their approach to building software wasn’t built for the way firms work today, either.

In this post, we outline the top reasons why Martin Dean’s Essential Forms might be holding back your firm from growing as fast as it can.

Martin Dean’s Essential Forms was designed for a desktop world

While running enterprise software on a local machine (your individual PC) used to be the norm, today’s firms increasingly rely on collaboration. Desktop-based software like Essential Forms makes collaborating with the other attorneys and team members in your office harder than it needs to be.

Running Essential Forms on a network

Sure, Essential Forms can technically run on a server—but it’s not without its challenges. The typical setup involves running a dedicated PC on your network to act as the server for all other users. So not only are you tying up a machine exclusively to run Essential Forms, you’re beholden to the reliability of that PC and the ability of your network connection to support multiple users connecting to a simple computer at once.

And according to the Essential Forms FAQ page, you’re only licensed to install the software on up to two desktops (one home machine for convenience). If you want to run it on a server, Essential Forms requires that you call them to obtain a special license.

Issues with multiple users

Another issue we’ve heard attorneys encounter is reliability issues when multiple people are using the Essential Forms product at the same time. Even if other people on your team are working on completely different cases or matters, it can bog down the system and cause serious issues. One firm we recently spoke to told us that they lost more than 400 hours due to an extended outage related to the issue of multiple people using the product at one time.

To fix this issue, you typically have to force everyone to log out and disconnect from the machine running Essential Forms and reboot the entire server. This is a clunky solution to say the least. It’s also a good way to lose hours of work, with no way of recovering what was lost. Which brings us to…

Martin Dean’s Essential Forms doesn’t support autosave

Remember the days when you would lose hours worth of work in Microsoft Word or Excel because you didn’t make a trip to “File > Save” in a while?

Even though most other software platforms have moved on to autosave and version history, the world of losing your work to a sudden operating system crash still exists. And you can visit it any time you wish simply by installing Martin Dean’s Essential Forms on a local network. Due to the limitations of running a piece of software designed for the desktop on a local network, saving your work becomes an important reflex to develop again.

As a clunky workaround, firms will often take steps to set up a separate folder on a server to save the forms and documents they’re working on for clients. But here’s the rub: you have to remember to save the right document to the right folder every time. You also have to make sure you open the appropriate saved file before restarting the job. And if you want to work on a document at the same time as someone else in your firm, forget it. Why?

Martin Dean’s Essential Forms doesn’t support collaboration

While simply remembering to hit “Save” works fine for one user, this process quickly breaks down when multiple users are sharing the same software and working on documents at the same time.

That’s because Martin Dean’s Essential Forms has no built-in support for collaboration. While it’s technically feasible for multiple users across multiple machines to collaborate on a single matter, it requires careful file etiquette and constant communication. Expect a lot of emails asking you if you’re done working on a case, wondering where you saved that appendix, and double checking that you’re not working on the document any more so someone else can open it.

Martin Dean’s Essential Forms doesn’t support multiple profiles

One of the biggest limitations of desktop software is that it’s designed for a single user—not teams. That means you can’t collaborate and save time by using the work of your colleagues to get a head-start on your California judicial forms.

For firms with multiple attorneys, collaboration is one of the biggest ways you can save time and scale the everyday work of the firm faster. With a cloud-based solution, each attorney can enter their profile information once, and any staff member can use that profile information to fill any form going forward. Cloud-based tools support multiple users and use cases like this by design, so you can reduce duplicitous work and streamline the workflows of your entire firm. With cloud-based software, you can set up unique profiles including name, address, and even state bar number.

With Lawyaw, you can streamline the process and enter your attorney and client information once, then populate the same corresponding fields in every form you need to fill going forward.


If your firm is still relying on Martin Dean’s Essential Forms but is frustrated by reliability issues and cumbersome file management requirements, Lawyaw can help. Our cloud-based software was built to address these issues, and the firms we work with report a significant reduction in time spent managing forms and files, and a big uptick in productivity.