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FAQs: Essential Forms & AccessLaw Judicial Council Forms

What is Essential Forms?

Essential Forms™ is a software product that allows you to easily and efficiently complete, print, and store California Judicial Council Forms. It features a database that auto-populates forms, shrink-to-fit fonts, custom form groups, and custom-field creation. Essential Forms top-end features include add-on county forms packages and eFiling.

How does an Essential Forms subscription work?

An Essential Forms subscription gives you access to California Judicial Council Forms for a single annual fee. All updates are included in the subscription price. Once you subscribe to Essential Forms you may purchase add-on county forms or packages of county forms such as Bay Area or SoCAL County forms.

Essential Forms subscriptions are automatically renewed. Near the end of a subscription period, an invoice will be sent for the next year's subscription. Prompt payment of the renewal invoice will allow for uninterrupted service for the next year.

How does a County Forms Package subscription work?

A County Forms Package subscription gives you access to County Forms Packages for a single annual fee. All updates are included in the subscription price.

County Forms Package subscriptions are automatically renewed. Near the end of a subscription period, an invoice will be sent for the next year's subscription. Prompt payment of the renewal invoice will allow for uninterrupted service for the next year.

Does Essential Forms work on a Mac?

Essential Forms will not run in the Macintosh operating system. Some customers use programs such as Parallels or Boot Camp to run Essential Forms on their Macintosh but this is not supported by CEB.

What counties forms are available on Essential Forms?

All California counties forms are available. (Alpine County does not currently have any county forms; if and when they produce any forms, we will add them). County forms provide all the necessary county-specific forms that you might need when filing local forms. You must own Essential Forms software in order to purchase Add-on County Forms subscriptions.

Does Essential Forms work in the cloud?

No. Some cloud software uses file management that Essential Forms databases are not compatible with and can damage the databases. It is not suggested to store or create a network on a cloud-hosted database. Please contact our Technical Support if you have specific questions about your set-up.

Does Essential Forms work on a remote drive or network?

Essential Forms should work assuming that the drive has a Windows network path associated with it, and your Essential Forms files are in a shared location. Please contact our Technical Support if you have specific questions about your set-up.

How often is Essential Forms updated?

The Judicial Council generally issues form updates twice a year, effective on January 1 and July 1. We mail disc updates out to all paid subscribers timed to arrive before the forms become effective. Essential Forms is automatically updated online when forms are issued outside of these January/July effective dates (not via disc). Local forms updates are distributed via automatic online update when we are notified that the county has made form changes.

Do you have a network version of Essential Forms?

Each copy of Essential Forms is shipped ready to run on network or a stand-alone application. Essential Forms may be installed on one computer. For convenience Essential Forms may be installed on one additional computer at an alternate workplace such as a home office. 

To install Essential Forms and use the materials on a local area network, wide area network, or any other multiple-user computer hardware/software configuration within a single firm, agency, or company, a specific license for such network or multiple user use must be obtained from CEB by calling Customer Service at 1-800-232-3444, press #1. 

Network licenses are subscription products that are automatically renewed. Near the end of a subscription period, an invoice will be sent for the next year's subscription. Prompt payment of the renewal invoice will allow for uninterrupted service for the next year.

If you have a network, our recommendation is to have the program installed only on the computer that is or acts as the server. All the other computers should have a “desktop shortcut” (as explained below) pointing to the server to launch the program. 

How do I save a form as a PDF so I can attach it to an email for a client?

Open the completed form on the screen. Click File, then Save As PDF from the drop-down. After completing the spell-check (assuming spell-check before saving is enabled), you will be taken to a Save As PDF window. The location where the PDF will be saved is shown in the top address bar (which by default is the Transfer folder, but can be changed to wherever you specify) and a File Name will automatically be created showing the form number and name (this can also be changed by you). Click Save and you will see an Information window stating "A PDF file has been successfully created in the selected directory." Click OK.

I can't enter my law firm information in the Client Database Assistant – Edit Firm Data window – it's greyed out.

Near the bottom of this Client Database Assistant – Edit Firm Data window, check the box, Use firm data when adding new clients/matters to the database. That will enable data entry in the fields.

I need to change some information in a previously saved client/matter. How can I change it without having to re-type it in the saved form under that client/matter? What about if I need to change some information for a whole group of saved forms; do I have to re-type it?

Most likely, a number of fields in your forms populate from the client/matter data entry screens (General, Collections, Family, Party, Guardian, Probate, Transitional, TRO, UD, I&E, Notes, WC). After you make the change in the client/matter data field(s) that applies, double-click the saved form(s) to open. On the Opened Forms tab, place your cursor in the field on the form you wish to change and click Edit. You can use any of the choices "Refresh this form with current client/matter info", "Refresh this field with current client/matter info", or "Refresh all open forms with current client/matter info". Be aware that any data in fields linked to the client/matter database will get overwritten with the current client/matter info as determined by which refresh choice is made. Unless the most targeted item is chosen ("Refresh this field…") it's wise to double-check your forms to make sure no other data was changed without your being aware of it.

What are the Terms and Conditions for Essential Forms?

Essential Forms is a disc-based subscription product offered on an annual basis. Each subscription entitles you to one year of forms updates. Typically this is two updates for forms that are effective January 1 and July 1. Law firms, corporate legal departments, and public agencies may purchase network versions of Essential Forms for a small fee. Essential Forms subscriptions are automatically renewed. Near the end of a subscription period, an invoice will be sent for the next year's subscription. Prompt payment of the renewal invoice will allow for uninterrupted service for the next year.

Installing and Updating

I ran the latest Essential Forms update CD and now when I open the program all I see is "Sample Client/New Matter". Where are all my saved clients/matters?

The Essential Forms installation program may not have been able to determine the location where your saved clients are stored, and reset the data path to the default location. Open Essential Form, click Configure>Data Directory, and browse to the location where the shared network data folder resides. Select that data folder, click OK, then click Use this directory. The program should prompt you to restart it. Reopen Essential Forms and you should see your clients/matters/forms. You can verify the location Essential Forms is configured to use as its data directory by clicking View, then System Information and looking at the third line Data under Directories.

I ran the latest Judicial Council update CD, but when I opened the program I still get the notice, "forms out of date". How do I clear out this message?

Make sure you're running the latest Essential Forms Judicial Council Forms update CD. The date is on the front of the disc. Try reinstalling this CD at the computer experiencing this problem, selecting "Update/Refresh" in the first installation window. If the message persists, contact Technical Support 800-870-1101.

I installed a Local County Update or Judicial Council CD and I get an information window with options "This program may not have installed correctly" or "This Program Installed Correctly". Which should I click? How do I know if it installed correctly?

Go ahead and click the option, "This program installed correctly". This is a message from the Windows User Account Control and does not indicate that any actual problem has been detected.

I am trying to run the update CD and I get the message, "Essential Forms is currently running" but I don't have it open on my computer. What does this mean?

Even if Essential Forms is not open at the computer where the update CD is running, the installation program is able to detect if any Essential Forms user on the network currently has Essential Forms shared data files open. Make sure all network users have the program closed before running an Essential Forms update CD. If the message persists even after all users have closed the program, the computer where your Essential Forms shared data folder is located may need to be rebooted to force it to release any locked shared data files.

When I double-click on the Essential Forms shortcut I get a message, "You are about to run a program from an unknown publisher" why am I getting this?

This is simply a message from the Windows User Account Control when you launch Essential Forms across a network in newer versions of Windows. The user has to click "Allow", "Continue", or "I trust this program…" and it should then continue to open Essential Forms. We do not recommend disabling the Windows User Account Control, as it makes your system more vulnerable to malicious code.

Do I need to install the Essential Forms program on each workstation, then create a shared data folder for all users to point at? Or should I install Essential Forms on a server in a shared folder, and then share out the shortcuts on each workstation?

The choice is up to you. Neither has any real performance advantages over the other, as far as we can determine. Physically installing the Essential Forms program on each workstation means when you receive a January or July Judicial Council update, you will need to run it on each station to update that station's program folder. (Additional forms module updates only need to be run once, however). If you choose to install the Essential Forms program on a shared server location (and share out the shortcut on the workstations), then you only need to run the Judicial Council Forms update CD once to update everything.

Either way you choose to install the program on a network, the network Data folder will need to be shared with full control, with read, write and modify permissions enabled for all users. If you are sharing the shortcut from the server, the Essential Forms program folder will also need to be shared with full control, with read, write and modify permissions enabled for all users.

To install the shortcut at a workstation, click Start, then click Computer (or File Explorer) and find the network drive where you designated the Essential Forms program files to be installed to. Open that program folder and you should see efwin32.exe (Application), right-click and click Send to > Desktop (create shortcut). You should see the blue and gold Essential Forms icon on your desktop. Note that the first time you double-click the shortcut on the station you may need to configure the data directory to the shared network data folder.

I ran the most recent Judicial Council update; how do I know it was successful?

The Judicial Council update CD updates both the software and the Judicial Council forms. To confirm the update was successful, launch Essential Forms and click View > System Information. Under Program, Essential Forms Version should match the version printed on the front of the CD, and the Expiration and Effective dates should be current. Next, you can confirm you have the latest Judicial Council forms by clicking the Forms Library Tab, then click the first folder below Standard folder on the left-side of the screen, Form Lists (above the Adoption folder). Then, on the right side of the screen, check at the top for Judicial Council (<Date>Changes). To see which forms changed with the latest update, double-click Judicial Council (<Date>Changes).

How do I check the date the local forms were last updated?

You can confirm you have the latest local forms update by clicking the Forms Library tab; then click the first folder below the Standard folder on the left-side of the screen, Form Lists (above the Adoption folder). Then, on the right side of the screen, look for the county you installed and you should see two items, County (Alphabetical) and County (Numerical); these will be followed by a month/year date that should match the date on the CD. Note, however, that if you've installed a multiple module CD (such as the Bay Area or SoCal packs), at least one of the individual modules contained therein should match the date on the CD, but not all of them necessarily will. If you would like to check form dates, click either the Alphabetical or Numerical list for that form set.

General Set up and Networks

Does the program have an automatic backup routine built in? What should I back up?

We recommend that all users establish a regular backup routine, whether that is daily, weekly or monthly. The Essential Forms installer generates a backup when the Judicial Council CD is run every January and July. Those backups are stored in the Release Backups folder inside the Data folder. If you set up automatic backup software make sure the entire Essential Forms Data folder gets backed up. We have a backup tool built into the program so you can manually backup your database by clicking File, then Backup Data, and designating a location to save the backup (.efx) file.

What comes over with the Legal Solutions Plus import?

When you import Legal Solutions data, only the client and matter information import. Legal Solutions Plus forms are saved in a format which is not compatible with that of Essential Forms and cannot be imported.

We all have our own clients on each workstation. Is it possible to merge the separate databases?

Yes. For step-by-step instructions please call Technical Support at 800-870-1101 or email them at

I am getting a "Maximum Users" error message and the program won't open.

Have all users on the network close Essential Forms. Launch Essential Forms Program on one computer. Click View System Information, and under Network check Current Users. If Current Users is set to 1, the problem should be resolved. If Current Users is set to anything besides 1, close Essential Forms, go to another computer and repeat the above steps. If, after performing these steps on all computers, the user count is not reset to 1, the server (or the computer on which the Essential Forms data resides) will need to be rebooted to get the user count to reset.

I am getting an error message, "component transfer error" when trying to run an Essential Forms CD.

"Component transfer error" means that the installer cannot copy files to the Essential Forms program folder or data folder. It can be caused by a bad CD, someone else on the network opening the program during an install, a bad network connection, or a file in one of the Essential Forms folders set to read-only. Reboot the computer, make sure all users have Essential Forms closed, and try to run the install again. If a specific file is mentioned in the error message, check that file by browsing to it in Windows Explorer, right-clicking on it and selecting "Properties", checking to see if "Read-only" is checked (if so, uncheck it and click OK). If that doesn't work, try temporarily disabling any anti-virus software to ensure it's not blocking the installer.


When I print certain forms, the text runs outside the right print margin and gets cut off, even though it looks fine onscreen. Why is this?

This problem can occur when the user specifies a scalable or proportional font (such as Times New Roman). Essential Forms performs a calculation on the text to determine how to display it. The driver for your printer also performs a calculation to determine how to print it, and unfortunately the two calculations may not quite match. Given enough characters, eventually the difference between the calculations can exceed the available margin space on the printed page. The simplest solution is to select Configure>Preferences, click on the Data Fields tab, and set the font to the fixed-width font: Courier New. Since the font character sizes in Courier New are fixed, there’s less potential for variation between the display and the print.

I am trying to print a multi-page document, I get a message to insert the next page. How do I turn this off so it just prints all the pages?

In Essential Forms click Configure>Preferences, and select the Print Options tab. In this window, under Next page printing mode, uncheck Pause between pages and click OK.

Can I view the Electronic Product Access Agreement?

Yes, when you first purchase Essential Forms, you will receive CEB's Electronic Product Access Agreement. You can access the agreement at any time by going to CEB Electronic Products Access Agreement.

What are the System Requirements for Essential Forms?

  • Microsoft Windows 7 or higher
  • 300 MB hard disk space
  • Windows compatible printer

Contact dedicated Essential Forms Technical Support at

  • 800-870-1101, 9AM-5PM
  • M-F or email us at

AccessLaw California Judicial Council Forms

  1. How often do you update the Judicial Council Forms?

    We follow the schedule set by the Administrative Office of the Court. Generally updates are twice a year, in January and July. On occasion a form will be issued off this cycle and we make an effort to get it to our customers.

Usage and Configuration

How do I get decimals or cents in numeric fields?

On the Essential Forms main page click, Configure > Preferences, select the Data Fields tab, check the box on the lower portion of the page, Use Decimal Values In Numeric Fields. Click OK. You will need to re-enter your numbers on any forms currently open, but you should see decimals or cents displayed going forward.

Do you have a zeros setting which displays a “0” in numerical fields in which nothing is entered?

No, you will have to manually enter "0" in each field.

Why do I not see commas in number values over a thousand showing up on the screen?

Due to a quirk in the way numeric fields are programmed, commas will not display on-screen, but they are added by default when the form is printed. In the Essential Forms window, if you click Configure > Preferences, and select either the Data Fields tab or the Print Options tab, you can verify that the Print Numeric Data Formatted With Commas box is checked and then click OK.

I need to type text into a numeric field. Is there a way to do this?

If the first character you type is a text character, the field re-formats as a text field. If a number has already been typed, it can be deleted and text then typed in.

I want to change the calculated numeric values in the "Total" but the program won't let me put the cursor in the field.

On the Essential Forms main page click,Configure Preferences, select the Data Fields tab, uncheck the first box on the lower portion of the page, Perform Automatic Calculations. Click OK. The program should now allow you to put the cursor in the field and edit it.

Can I search for a form without having to go through each Forms Group?

Yes. On the menu bar, in the Forms Library tab, we have a little binoculars icon which is our forms search feature. We would recommend checking all 3 boxes at the top in the Form Finder window under, Search By Form Group, Form Name, Form Number.

In the Search For window, you can enter a single word, form number (such as FL-150) or Form Group (such as Tuolumne) and then click enter on the keyboard or click Search. Once you locate the form in the list click on it and click Open/View to go right into the form. Open will open the form on the Opened Forms tab.

Can I archive old or closed clients so I don’t see them in the client list anymore?

We suggest exporting all matters for that client (you can select more than one for a given client by using <Ctrl> click or <Shift> click) by right-clicking on the matter or selected group of matters and click File, then Export matter(s). The program will allow you to choose the location you want to export the file to. You can then delete that client and, should you need it in the future, you can import it back in by going to the Client Information tab and clicking File, then Import matter(s). For more details on how to Import and Export, you can click Help, then View Essential Forms User's Manual and go to pages 25-26.s

What is "bookmark not exist"? I got it when I was trying to save a form?

The "bookmark not exist" error usually results from a broken network connection; data has been lost. Unfortunately, the user will most likely lose the open forms. You might try to Save As PDF (File > Save As PDF) or print the form. Reboot the computer, restart Essential Forms, make sure you're pointing to the correct data folder (Click Configure, then Data Directory).

When I try to save as PDF I get an error message, “I/O Error 32 Failed To Save As PDF Failed To Save As Postscript File.”

  1. In the search box on the taskbar, type Services, then select the search result of the same name.
  2. In the Services list, double-tap (or double-click) Print Spooler.
  3. Select Stop > OK.
  4. In the Services list, double-tab (or double-click) Print Spooler
  5. Select Start, and in the Startup Type list, make sure that Automatic is selected, and then select OK.
  6. Try rebooting the computer then going back into Essential Forms opening a document and click, File > Save As PDF.