Modeling Legal Modularity

Ted Sichelman (University of San Diego)
Henry Smith (Harvard University)

Abstract: Law employs modular structures to manage the complexity among legal actors. Property, torts, contracts, intellectual property, and doctrines in other areas of the law reduce information costs in similar ways by chopping up the world of interactions between parties into manageable chunks—modules—that are semi-autonomous. These modules employ boundaries—whether “real” boundaries as in real property law or “abstract” boundaries as in intellectual property, torts, and contracts—to hide information so as to make law less context-dependent and, hence, more modular. Previous explications of modularity in law have been qualitative. Here, borrowing from numerical measures of modularity in network theory, we offer the beginnings of a quantitative model of legal modularity. We posit that our “network science” approach to jurisprudential issues can be adapted to quantify many other important aspects of legal systems.

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