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Contributing to Ironsides

Ironsides is an open-access legal forms project. Courteous, well-reasoned feedback is welcome, appreciated, and recognized!

There are a number of ways to contribute to Ironsides, whether you're a technical whiz or a pen-and-paper kind of lawyer.

Ground Rules

The Internet is a poor forum for dignified, dispassionate discussion. The Ironsides community is different. Conduct yourself at all times as if you are corresponding with the facilitator's elderly grandparent, and afford others the benefit of every doubt. The facilitator will moderate discussion along these lines.

Ironsides is a legal forms project, and many contributors are lawyers. However, Ironsides documents themselves may not be properly tailored to your needs, and contributors won't give legal advice via GitHub. The fact that a lawyer contributes to Ironsides doesn't mean they're available for hire or specialized in forming companies. Do not try phrasing your specific question as a "hypothetical". You will look foolish, and it won't work.

More generally, treat every message you see from the Ironsides community as if it came from an anonymous stranger. Does the message stand on its own?

Do not share any confidential information via GitHub. GitHub is a very public place!


Whenever you propose a change to Ironsides, please include a note in your proposal that you make your contribution available to the public on the same Creative Commons CC0 Universal 1.0 terms as the rest of Ironsides. A simple note like "I, [Your Name], make this contribution available under CC0 Universal 1.0." will do. Others may follow up, publicly or privately, to make sure that you have full legal right to apply CC0 to the material you offer.

Discussion and Proposals

If you would like to make a comment or discuss Ironsides with the community, please see "Issues" below. If you would like to propose changes to Ironsides, please see "Changes" below. If you're not sure if you should make a proposal, and would like to talk about it with the community before starting work, have a look at "Issues" first.


General discussion about Ironsides and ways to improve it happens via GitHub Issues. If you're not familiar with GitHub Issues, don't worry, they work pretty much like other Internet message boards. You will need to create a (free) GitHub account to create new Issues for discussion and respond to Issues created by others.

Don't worry if you're not a programmer or techie-type. It's perfectly fine to use GitHub just for Issues, and GitHub makes it easy to participate by replying to e-mail, rather than logging into all the time.


The Ironsides community uses GitHub Pull Requests to manage changes and discussion, but you don't have to use GitHub to contribute.

  • If you can use GitHub and don't mind contributing using your GitHub account, please see "GitHub" below.

  • If you're familiar with Google Drive, which is like Microsoft Work, but simpler, see "Google Drive" below.

  • If you'd prefer to send more traditional markups by e-mail or postal mail, or if you'd prefer to contribute anonymously, see "Redlines" below.

Regardless of how you choose to submit changes, do not submit confidential information!


Ironsides forms are written using Common Form markup, a plain-text format for form contracts, with the help of cftemplate, a lightweight preprocessor that lets us distribute and compose Common Forms via npm. All the form files are plain-text .cftemplate files. The repository uses Travis CI to check forms for technical errors and build Microsoft Word documents for releases. Tagged releases are "deployed" to GitHub releases and Google Drive. The best way to learn to type form contracts in Common Form is to open the .cftemplate file for the form you want to change in a text editor, like Atom or Notepad.

Please send pull requests from topic branches based on the current master branch. If you have any questions about Common Form or how Ironsides documents are built, feel free to open an Issue or mention your question in your Pull Request. The facilitator of Ironsides is the principal author of Common Form, and many contributors are also involved in both projects.

Google Drive

The most recent official release of Ironsides is automatically published to Google Drive, where you can make suggestions and comments as you might add comments or Track Changes edits in Word:

The facilitator will receive an e-mail about any edit or comment you make via Google Drive.


If you would prefer to send a more traditional redline with proposed changes and comments, you can send them to Ironsides' facilitator at or Kyle E. Mitchell, 156 Second Street, San Francisco, California 94105. The facilitator will not accept e-mail or hard copy contributions of comments alone.

The facilitator will make every effort to process and share well-considered proposals with the community. The facilitator may ignore submissions that seem spurious, nettlesome, or duplicative of proposals already accepted or declined by the community.


If you send a proposal via e-mail, please provide in one of the following formats:

  1. A Microsoft Word file with Track Changes
  2. A Microsoft Word file generated by a legal redline generation tool
  3. A Portable Document Format file with annotations
  4. A patch generated with git format-patch

If you send edits in hard copy, please, for the love of God, print legibly! The facilitator is a busy practicing attorney, and will recycle illegible submissions.

Please also make use of standard edit marks, such as those described by The Texas Law Review's Manual on Usage & Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, or a nationally known financial printer's manual. Helpfully indicate in your e-mail or cover page what edit marks you have used.

Whether you send by e-mail or postal mail, make sure to identify the version number of the Ironsides documents that you began to edit.

In addition to your markup and comments, please include your name, e-mail address, and the statement described under "Copyright" above. The facilitator will use your e-mail address to confirm receipt and notify you if a Pull Request (an Issue that includes proposed changes) is created on GitHub for your proposal. The facilitator will not share your e-mail address with anyone.

The facilitator will endeavor to process e-mail and postal submissions as quickly as possible in order received. Please be patient.

Anonymous and Claimable Proposals

Unless you specify otherwise, the facilitator will post every e-mail and postal mail proposal to GitHub as a Pull Request with mention of your name. The facilitator may take steps to verify that the proposal comes from the author named.

The facilitator will process your proposal differently if you write "This proposal is [type of proposal listed below]." in your e-mail or cover letter.

  1. Anonymous. The facilitator will post your proposal to GitHub as a Pull Request with mention that it was made anonymously.

  2. Claimable. If you provide a secret passphrase of at least 5 English words, the facilitator will retain the passphrase in secret and post your proposal as if it were made anonymously. On later receipt of the passphrase and a request to claim the proposal, the facilitator will identify claimant as the author of the proposal.

If you submit an anonymous or claimable proposal, be sure to include your name nonetheless. The facilitator may discard submissions that introduce substantial new changes without an attributable statement described by "Copyright" above.


Kyle E. Mitchell (@kemitchell on GitHub) maintains Ironsides.