A Programming Language for Future Interests

75 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2022

See all articles by Shrutarshi Basu

Shrutarshi Basu

Harvard University

Nate Foster

Cornell University - Department of Computer Science

James Grimmelmann

Cornell Law School; Cornell Tech

Shan Parikh

Oracle Corporation

Ryan Richardson


Date Written: June 13, 2022


Learning the system of estates in land and future interests can seem like learning a new language. Scholars and students must master unfamiliar phrases, razor-sharp rules, and arbitrarily complicated structures. Property law is this way not because future interests are a foreign language, but because they are a programming language.

This Article presents Orlando, a programming language for expressing conveyances of future interests, and Littleton, a freely available online interpreter (at https://conveyanc.es) that can diagram the interests created by conveyances and model the consequences of future events. Doing so has three payoffs. First, formalizing future interests helps students and teachers of the subject by allowing them to visualize and experiment with conveyances. Second, the process of formalization is itself deeply illuminating about property doctrine and theory. And third, the computer-science subfield of programming language theory has untapped potential for legal scholarship: a programming-language approach takes advantage of the linguistic parallels between legal texts and computer programs.

Keywords: property, programming languages, future interests, computational law

Suggested Citation

Basu, Shrutarshi and Foster, Nate and Grimmelmann, James and Grimmelmann, James and Parikh, Shan and Richardson, Ryan, A Programming Language for Future Interests (June 13, 2022). 24 Yale Journal of Law and Technology 75 (2022), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3797204

Shrutarshi Basu

Harvard University ( email )

Nate Foster

Cornell University - Department of Computer Science ( email )

United States

James Grimmelmann (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Cornell Tech ( email )

2 West Loop Road
New York, NY 10044
United States

Shan Parikh

Oracle Corporation

500 Oracle Parkway
Redwood Shores, CA 94065
United States

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