On Mathematical Patterns in the Web of the Law Indicating a Quasi-Biological Evolution

Revue Juridique Polynesienne, No. 13, 2007

16 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2007


This research project aims to reveal a specific mathematical pattern in the development of the common law. Its starting point is a prediction inspired by modern complexity theory that in a case law system the frequency of more important and of less important decisions should follow a socalled power law distribution (which is closely related to Zipf's Law). This hypothesis is verified by analysing the case law of New Zealand.

For readers from the legal profession not acquainted with this kind of analysis, a brief introduction to Zipf's Law is provided. While the mechanisms behind this phenomenon are the subject of ongoing debate, this study is based on the theoretical model of complex systems known as notion of selforganised criticality. It is inspired mainly by the work of the biologist Stuart Kauffman and can be regarded as an application of his ideas to the area of law.

To provoke further thought, some related concepts of the evolution of law are discussed. However, the substantive part of this study is the empirical analysis. The overall aim of the study is to shed some light on the question of how the law develops (or is developed).

Keywords: Zipf, Kauffman, evolution, law, Common Law

Suggested Citation

Freund, Bernhard F., On Mathematical Patterns in the Web of the Law Indicating a Quasi-Biological Evolution. Revue Juridique Polynesienne, No. 13, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1014067

Bernhard F. Freund (Contact Author)


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