Free Law Project Governance

Governance in the Free Law Project

The Free Law Project is a non-profit corporation in the state of California. It's primary purpose is to facilitate the development of both and Juriscraper. It's other purposes and activities can be found on their about page.

The Free Law Project's two founders are also its current benevolent dictators, Michael Lissner and Brian Carver. When decisions need to be made these two individuals are the ones who currently make the decisions. However, being a genuine non-profit means that corporate bylaws must exist and official positions must be defined. So in addition to being unofficial benevolent co-dictators, both Brian Carver and Michael Lissner are Directors of The Free Law Project in the eyes of the law.

The corporate bylaws of The Free Law Project enumerate numerous positions which can often be filled by the same person. I imagine given that The Free Law Project was only recently incorporated in July 2013 many of these positions are still fluid and evolving. In total the bylaws enumerate a Board Chairperson, President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Chief Executive(CEO). These positions do not always need to be filled nor must they be filled with different people. One person can hold multiple offices with only some minor restrictions as defined in the bylaws.

This seems like a lot of governance overhead for such a small open source project. But it's understandable given The Free Project's obvious relationship to all things legal. Having this structure of clearly defined rules and fiduciary responsibilities means the two benevolent co-dictators can focus on moving the project forward without having to worry about problems which may arise from future disagreements.

The Free Law Project is very upfront and forward thinking about possible future transgressions regarding its members and contributors. Before I was able to contribute code I was made to sign a document stating I had the right to contribute. In addition The Free Law Project has a posted policy regarding conflict of interest and ethics which clearly discerns the kind of behavior they expect of their contributors and members.

In conclusion, the governance model of The Free Law Project is a simple benevolent co-dictator model buttressed by a robust set of legal documents that protect it from possible negative futures. I don't think I could really improve on this model nor do I see any evidence that this model is disliked by anyone who contributes to the project.