chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

Probate & Property

Mar/Apr 2023

Uniform Laws Update: How Uniform Laws Are Made

Benjamin Orzeske


  • Commissioners are tasked with studying subjects of state statutory law for which there may be a need for uniformity among the states.
  • The ABA appoints at least one ABA Advisor to each ULC drafting committee.
  • ULC drafting committees offer a remote participation option, which eliminates travel expenses for drafting meetings.
Uniform Laws Update: How Uniform Laws Are Made
Martin Barraud via Getty Images

Jump to:

Uniform Laws Update provides information on uniform and model state laws in development as they apply to property, trust, and estate matters. The editors of Probate & Property welcome information and suggestions from readers.

The Uniform Law Commission (ULC) comprises volunteer attorneys appointed by the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. All facets of the legal profession are represented on the commission: practitioners, academics, judges, legislators, and legislative staff.

Commissioners are tasked with studying subjects of state statutory law for which there may be a need for uniformity among the states and, once those areas are identified, with providing state legislatures with well-drafted, non-partisan, uniform legislation. When the ULC receives a proposal for a new project, typically a study committee is appointed to consider the proposal. If the study committee recommends the project and the ULC leadership approves, a drafting committee is appointed. All commissioners can apply to serve on study and drafting committees. The ULC President reviews all applications and typically appoints a committee of 10-12 commissioners, from all areas of the country, who have subject-matter expertise or some other relevant experience to contribute.

In addition to commissioners, ULC Drafting Committees are open to any interested party, and the Committee Chair will actively recruit representatives from stakeholder organizations to join and help the committee draft effective and enactable laws. These non-commissioner members play a vital role in shaping uniform laws, and the ULC is always seeking input from outside experts. There is one caveat: all participants are expected to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and to engage productively in policy discussions rather than advocate for the benefit of any particular constituency. A longstanding tenet of the ULC is that all commissioners “leave their clients at the door.”

For non-commissioners, there are two ways to join a ULC drafting committee: as an ABA Advisor or as an Observer.

ABA Advisors

The ABA and ULC have enjoyed a productive working relationship for over 130 years. The ULC began as an ABA committee to study uniform state laws. The committee members quickly realized that a drafting body would have to be independent of the ABA (or any advocacy organization), and thus the ABA passed a resolution in 1890 urging states to appoint uniform law commissioners. This effort resulted in the first “National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws” in 1892, and the organization, now known as the ULC, has met regularly ever since and produced over 450 uniform and model state laws.

By agreement, the ABA appoints at least one ABA Advisor to each ULC drafting committee and covers the cost of the Advisor’s attendance at drafting committee meetings. ABA Sections may appoint additional advisors at their own expense. The role of the ABA Advisor is to act as a liaison between the drafting committee and any interested ABA entities. The Advisor files periodic reports with the ABA, keeping its members informed about the scope and policies of the evolving uniform law. At the same time, the Advisor solicits feedback from ABA members and conveys the collective views of the legal profession to the drafting committee. ABA Advisors often will serve an important role at the enactment stage as well, acting as an expert resource for ABA members who want to advocate for the adoption of uniform laws in their own state legislatures.

To become an ABA Advisor, watch for notice of new ULC drafting projects and use the ABA’s self-nomination procedure to apply for the role.


Each drafting committee will have, at most, a handful of ABA Advisors, but the number of Observers is unlimited. Observers have no reporting obligations and choose their level of participation. Some Observers simply monitor the committee’s progress by reviewing drafts and other committee materials. Some will submit written comments for the committee’s consideration, and some attend drafting meetings in person to fully participate in the discussion and debate.

It is very common for stakeholder organizations to appoint Observers to ULC drafting committees. For example, the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, the American College of Mortgage Attorneys, and the American Land Title Association typically appoint Observers for projects to draft uniform real property laws. For trust and estate projects, the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys, the National Guardianship Association, and AARP are frequent participants. Additionally, individuals with an interest in the subject are welcome to join as Observers and participate to whatever extent they wish.

Observers (or their sponsoring organizations) must fund their own participation, but this has recently become far less burdensome. Since 2020, most ULC drafting committees offer a remote participation option, which eliminates travel expenses for drafting meetings. The Uniform Law Foundation also provides grants to cover the costs of attendance for qualified non-profit organizations that appoint an Observer.

RPTE Members are invited and encouraged to contribute their expertise to help draft new uniform laws by joining a drafting committee either as an ABA Advisor or an Observer. The list of current projects is available at For more detailed information about the role of ABA Advisors and Observers, download a manual from