UCL Faculty of Laws


Online | Interpreting Statutes and Regulations

15 November 2021–18 November 2021, 12:45 pm–2:00 pm

Statute books on shelf

Richard Calnan will explain how statutes and regulations are interpreted in legal practice over 8x one-hour lunch time seminars - Lunch & Learn.

Event Information

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UCL Laws Events

About this course

As the volume of statute law continues to increase, lawyers spend much of their time reading - and trying to understand - the statutes and regulations which affect us all.

The purpose of this course is to explain how statutes and regulations are interpreted. That may sound straightforward. Surely we just read the words? But the cases show how difficult it can be in practice. Interpretation is ultimately a judgemental exercise, but the judgement needs to be made in accordance with the rule of law, and that means it must be made with an understanding of the principles of statutory interpretation. This course will explain what those principles are and how they are applied in practice.

The course is primarily aimed at lawyers - whether they are in private practice or work in-house or in universities or government  - but it is also of relevance to non-lawyers.

It will be run in October and November 2021 as a series of eight online seminars from 12:45 until 14:00 on Thursdays from 7th October until 25th November.

Each seminar will concentrate on a small number of cases in order to understand how the principles of statutory interpretation work in practice. We will make the seminars as interactive as possible and we will encourage those attending to engage in a discussion of the rights and wrongs of the cases.

We will also examine the similarities and differences between statutory and contractual interpretation. Comparing statutory interpretation with contractual interpretation helps us to understand them both better.

The seminars will cover the following topics:

Seminar 1: The Problem (7th October)
We will discuss a few contrasting cases which illustrate the problems of statutory interpretation and we will then discuss the guiding principle of interpretation.

Seminar 2: The Text (14 October)
What is the text of a statute? Can the interpreter imply words or change them? It is commonplace that statutes must be read as a whole, but what does that mean in practice?

Seminars 3 and 4: The Context (21 & 28 October)
Like any document, the words of a statute need to be read in context. But what counts as context and what can it be used for? How does it differ from contractual interpretation?

Seminars 5 and 6: Natural Meanings (4  & 11 November)
The starting point for the interpretation of the words in a statute is to give them their natural and ordinary meaning in context. But what does that mean in practice, and how is it affected by the requirement to give the words a purposive interpretation?

Seminars 7 and 8: Ambiguities and Absurdities (18 & 25 November)
When the words of a statute are ambiguous, the interpreter has a choice to make. How is that done? And in what circumstances can the interpreter reject the natural meaning of clear words because they do not make sense or because they create an absurdity? How does the approach differ from contractual interpretation? How is it affected by the human rights legislation? And to what extent will the European approach to interpretation survive Brexit?

About the speaker

Richard Calnan is a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright LLP in London and a Visiting Professor at University College London.

He is the author of Taking Security (LexisNexis, fourth edition 2018), Proprietary Rights and Insolvency (Oxford University Press, second edition 2016) and Principles of Contractual Interpretation (Oxford University Press, second edition 2017).

Fees for the full series

Early bird Standard fee (until 30 July) = £520
Standard Fee = £600 (Group fee for 3 or more from the same firm = £500)
UCL Alumni Fee = £300
Full time Academic / Government Legal / NGO Fee  = £300
Full Time Student Fee (non-UCL) = £100

UCL students will have a free place on this course - choose the UCL Law Student ticket when signing up.

Course delivery

This course will be held using Zoom. You will be sent the zoom meeting details 48 hours before the start of each session.

Each session will be recorded so that if you miss a session you will have 7 days to catch up.

How to book your place

Book your place using a credit or debit card at:

If you prefer to receive an invoice to your firm, please email Lisa Penfold for details. We will need to set your firm up on the UCL finance system so this method of booking can take a little longer.

UCL students will have a free place on this course - choose the UCL Law Student ticket when signing up.


If you have any queries about this course please contact Lisa Penfold (CPD Manager, UCL Laws) by emailing lisa.penfold@ucl.ac.uk

Book your place