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Brooklyn Law Review Symposium: Data-Driven Approaches to Legal Interpretation

Judges and legal scholars have increasingly turned to the methods of corpus linguistics in the realm of statutory interpretation over the past decade. The goal in corpus linguistics is to use big data, such as Brigham Young University’s 600 million-word Corpus of Contemporary American English, to determine how words contained in statutes are actually used, providing an empirical basis for determinations of “ordinary meaning” in statutory interpretation. At the same time, some scholars argue that this sort of naturalistic data is inferior to information that can be gathered from survey studies, at least for contemporary cases, because surveys can focus on how people understand the terminology as it is actually used in the statutes with respect to the fact patterns that are in dispute. Finally, while judicial reliance on dictionaries has been severely criticized in recent years, the use of multiple dictionaries in historical contexts has provided fruitful information about word usage when it comes to the meaning of terms in the Constitution.

This symposium brings together scholars from all three schools of thought—those advocating the use of corpus analysis, experimental survey studies, and enlightened use of dictionaries—to argue their points and to determine, collectively, how each of these methods might contribute to legal analysis in particular contexts.

Agenda and Panelists

Sponsored by the Brooklyn Law Review and the Center for Law, Language and Cognition

CLE Credit
The program provides 7.0 CLE credits in the State of New York. Partial credit is not available. The credits are transitional and non-transitional and the category is Professional Practice (5.5) and Ethics (1.5).

Materials will be distributed digitally prior to the event. Please print out a hard copy if you would like to have one as a reference. A limited number of printouts will be available upon email request to by deadline of February 21.

Registration Information
The cost of the program is $140, regardless of whether you attend for CLE credit.
Brooklyn Law School may offer financial assistance to participants who meet certain qualifications and our financial aid policy is available at

The program is free of charge for faculty and current students.