Quantifying Legal Entropy

Posted: 13 Jul 2013

See all articles by Ted M. Sichelman

Ted M. Sichelman

University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: May 22, 2013


Many scholars have employed the term “entropy” in the context of law and legal systems to roughly refer to amount of “uncertainty” present in a given law, doctrine, or legal system. Just a few of these scholars have attempted to formulate a quantitative definition of legal entropy, and none have provided a precise formula useable across a variety of legal contexts. Here, I provide such a formula, relying upon Claude Shannon’s definition of entropy in the context of information theory. In addition to offering a precise quantification of uncertainty in the law, the approach offered here provides other benefits. For example, it offers a more comprehensive account of the uses and limits of “modularity” in the law — namely, using the terminology of Henry Smith, the use of legal “boundaries” (be they spatial or intangible) that “economize on information costs” by “hiding” classes of information “behind” those boundaries. The notion of legal entropy is explored in a variety of legal fields, including intellectual property, real property, and corporate law.

Suggested Citation

Sichelman, Ted M., Quantifying Legal Entropy (May 22, 2013). San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 13-128. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2293015

Ted M. Sichelman (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
(619) 260-7512 (Phone)
(619) 260-2748 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.sandiego.edu/law/faculty/profiles/bio.php?ID=795

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