Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel
Written on January, 2023
Legislative drafting, a cornerstone of democratic governance, is a discipline characterised by its intricate processes and complex methodologies. Over centuries, this craft has been honed, refined and passed down through generations of legal professionals. Recently, however, the advent of technology and digital tools have heralded a new era for legislative drafting. These modern resources promise to streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and fundamentally reshape the way laws are made. This essay will delve into the priorities for modernising legislative drafting within the Commonwealth community, focusing on the transformative role of digital technologies.
The Importance of Quality Drafting
Quality legislative drafting, while often overlooked, is of paramount importance to the functioning of a society. It is an art form that requires a delicate blend of accuracy, clarity, and predictability. These attributes are essential to ensuring that laws are fair and just, adhering to the principles of the rule of law.
Drafters do not create policy; rather, their role is to translate policy into the right words and structures. This is a task that demands meticulous attention to detail and an understanding of the complex interplay between various laws. It is their responsibility to ensure that legislation is not only legally sound but also accessible and understandable to the public. As such, the role of the drafter is crucial in maintaining a well-governed, civilised society.
The Challenges and Opportunities of Digitalisation
While drafting has developed over centuries based on the printed page, we are now at a juncture where we must consider how laws appear not just on paper, but on digital screens – from laptops to mobile phones. This shift reflects the changing ways in which people interact with legislation. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored this point, with countless individuals accessing emergency laws online to understand how new regulations affect them.
The evolution of technology has revolutionised the ways legislation is read and used. Nowadays, most laws are viewed in electronic format on the internet, making the once omnipresent physical statute books increasingly redundant. However, this shift has also reinforced the urgent need for legislative drafting tools that recognise and utilise legislation as data.
Digital Tools for Legislative Drafting
Several Commonwealth jurisdictions have developed innovative software solutions for drafting and publishing legislation. For example, in Scotland, a collaborative initiative with the UK government and Parliament led to the creation of ‘LawMaker’. ‘LawMaker’ is an innovative tool born out of a collaboration between Scotland’s legislative drafting office, the UK government, and the UK Parliament. This digital tool has been instrumental in driving the shift from traditional, paper-based legislative processes towards a ‘digital-first’ model that recognises and treats legislation as data.
At its core, ‘LawMaker’ is a browser-based service that enables users to draft, amend, and manage legislation. By replacing several distinct tools used in different places, ‘LawMaker’ streamlines and unifies the drafting process. This unified approach is an essential step towards modernising legislative drafting as it ensures that high-quality legislative data is produced consistently across all stages of the legislative cycle.
‘LawMaker’ adopts an open data standard, which is a critical feature in its design. This allows different partners in the legislative process to create, use, and manage legislative data in a way that suits their specific needs throughout the different legislative stages. This collaborative approach is a significant departure from the siloed operations of the past and represents a more cohesive and coordinated approach to legislative drafting.
Furthermore, ‘LawMaker’ is not limited to primary legislation. It has the capacity to be used for drafting subordinate legislation and statutory instruments, demonstrating its versatility and adaptability. The open-source components of ‘LawMaker’ mean that the code created has the potential to be used to shape digital developments in other legislatures, further enhancing its value as a tool for modernising legislative drafting.
One of the crucial benefits of ‘LawMaker’ is that it helps make the legislative process more accessible to legislatures and stakeholders. The digital-first approach means that legislation is more readily available and easier to understand for the public. This increased accessibility aligns with the broader goal of legislative drafting – to create laws that are not only precise and accurate but also easily found and understood by those affected by them.
‘LawMaker’ is an essential tool for the modernisation of legislative drafting within the Commonwealth community. It represents a significant advancement in the field, demonstrating the potential of digital tools to transform the legislative drafting process and improve the quality, accessibility, and understandability of legislation.
The worlds of legislative drafting and technology are closer than many might think. Both rely on patterns, logic, and creativity. By continuing to work together, legislative drafters and technologists can transform the ways laws are made. The development and implementation of digital tools not only streamline the legislative process, making it more transparent and accessible, but also help ensure that the legislation governing our societies is of the highest quality. As we move forward, this fusion of traditional skills and modern technology will be key to modernising legislative drafting within the Commonwealth community.
Supporting and donating to this library is more than a contribution; it is a vote for the importance of freely accessible knowledge and a pledge to our shared intellectual growth. Each donation aids in the curation, preservation, and expansion of our resources, ensuring the continued availability of relevant and timely content. It helps us sustain the quality and breadth of our offerings, enabling us to serve our diverse community better. Your contribution signifies your commitment to fostering a vibrant, informed, and connected community, underpinned by the principle of equitable access to knowledge.