Law Smells – Defining and Detecting Problematic Patterns in Legal Drafting

Law as Code? Code as Law?  A long standing debate … but what other ideas / concepts from Computer Science might be leveraged in understanding and managing the law ?

Corinna Coupette, Dirk Hartung, Janis Beckedorf, Maximilian Bother & Daniel Martin Katz, Law Smells – Defining and Detecting Problematic Patterns in Legal Drafting – available at < SSRN > < arXiv >

ABSTRACT – “Building on the computer science concept of code smells, we initiate the study of law smells, i.e., patterns in legal texts that pose threats to the comprehensibility and maintainability of the law. With five intuitive law smells as running examples — namely, duplicated phrase, long element, large reference tree, ambiguous syntax, and natural language obsession — we develop a comprehensive law smell taxonomy. This taxonomy classifies law smells by when they can be detected, which aspects of law they relate to, and how they can be discovered.  Our new paper demonstrates how ideas from software engineering can be leveraged to assess and improve the quality of legal code, thus drawing attention to an understudied area in the intersection of law and computer science and highlighting the potential of computational legal drafting.”

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