A Network Model of Legal Relations

382 Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A 20230153 (2024)

26 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2024 Last revised: 27 Mar 2024

See all articles by Ted M. Sichelman

Ted M. Sichelman

University of San Diego School of Law

Henry E. Smith

Harvard Law School

Date Written: February 3, 2024

Abstract

From at least the early 20th century, legal scholars have recognized that rights and other legal relations inhere between individual legal actors, forming a vast and complex social network. Yet, no legal scholar has used the mathematical machinery of network theory to formalize these relationships. Here, we propose the first such approach by modeling a rudimentary, static set of real property relations using network theory. Then, we apply our toy model to measure the level of modularity—essentially, the community structure—among aggregations of these real property relations and associated actors. In so doing, we show that even for a very basic set of relations and actors, law may employ modular structures to manage complexity. Property, torts, contracts, intellectual property, and other areas of the law arguably reduce information costs in similar, quantifiable ways by chopping up the world of interactions between parties into manageable modules that are semi-autonomous. We also posit that our network science approach to jurisprudential issues can be adapted to quantify many other important aspects of legal systems.

Keywords: network theory, legal relations, rights, property, modularity, Wesley Hohfeld

JEL Classification: C02, C65, K11

Suggested Citation

Sichelman, Ted M. and Smith, Henry E., A Network Model of Legal Relations (February 3, 2024). 382 Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A 20230153 (2024), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4715557

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

Henry E. Smith

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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