The problem:

There are many fields of law in which the lack of standard text causes delay, cost and lower quality transacting.  There are many projects sponsored by trade groups, bar associations and similar organizations to create model documents and model laws that address this.

These projects confront a number of problems:

  • they need to achieve consensus
  • collaboration is done by circulating word processing documents rather than more efficient methods
  • they produce a ‘final’ draft, cutting off the discussion
  • they cannot cover a broad spectrum of use cases
  • they do not get much feedback from actual use
  • users of the documents must make, modify and handle copies


The solution:

Treat model document projects like open source projects.  A participant can frame the issues as an outline of the document and populate it with some proposed content.  Other participants can propose alternatives and additions.  The project can proceed by iteration and acceptance (versioning, forking and pulls).  Participants can:

  • agree on parts
  • work collaboratively
  • contribute continuously
  • express differences while working from a common base and taxonomy
  • make it easy for people who use the documents to contribute improvements and variations
  • use documents by referencing them, electronically or by incorporation by reference
  • create links back to the authors of the project, the experts in the field

Source methods radically lower the threshold to codification and use of model documents and laws.

Starting points:

Very limited list of Model Document Projects

e.g.: Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act