J DuClos

GitHub for Lawyers

More Notes

GitHub for Lawyers

GitHub for Lawyers is a piece I wrote in 2013 about how legal drafting is procedurally and logistically consistent with software code drafting, and that the most popular tools used by developers for version control (Git) could just as well be put to use by those desiring to manage a legal drafting project. This article rose into the top 10 of Hacker News, driving tens of thousands of reads in one 24 hr period. In particular, I struck a note on public participation in the legislative process.

Our current model for representation by Congress and the Senate (and state replications) is exactly that model deployed when our federation barely broke the teens in number, was concentrated on the eastern seaboard still distant from even the Mississippi River, was populated by something like 1/50 the population represented coast-to-coast and Alaska/Hawaii today, and when transportation technology consisted of horse and saddle, or waterfaring steam vessel — not even train. There were then good reasons for representative bodies — it was a convenience, if not a necessity of federal governmental management. But each of those reasons has lapsed. So why not encourage citizens to compete with lobbyists, to form their own groups, to draft legislation using version control tools, and to advance causes through bill-drafting efforts? Do not ever be fooled into believing power does not ultimately rest in your hands — perhaps more now than ever before, it truly does.

GitLaw is a platform for collaboratively drafting, committing and pushing legislation — essentially GitHub for lawmaking. Individuals (or groups) initiate legislative proposals, and the community revises them, or forks and revises them, tracking all changes asynchronously. Legislation is categorized by community and/or issue and/or organization (e.g., ride-sharing, or New York, or the National Institute for Trial Advocacy). When a proposal is fully committed and ready for deployment, it is pushed directly to the representative empowered to sponsor and advance the legislation in the relevant congressional environment (local, regional or national).

Internal democratic processes within the platform highlight legislation with particularly strong viability, in a form of pre-voting and constituency polling. Actual legislative outcomes are tracked, logged and visually depicted. The legislative side of the platform is provided pro bono; the platform is supported by paid accounts owned by lawyers and organizations wishing to negotiate/draft/revise legal documents in tandem with other lawyers and organizations. GitLaw is a decentralized collaborative lawmaking platform for logistically airtight direct democracy.