Short courses


Interpreting Statutes and Regulations in Legal Practice

  • 8 days - 1 hour 15 minutes per day (08:45 - 10am)
  • 2 weeks


This series of online lunch-time seminars for lawyers will explain how statutes and regulations are interpreted in legal 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're applied in practice.

Each seminar will concentrate on a small number of cases to help you understand how the principles of statutory interpretation work in practice. You'll be encouraged to engage in a discussion of the rights and wrongs of the cases.

We'll also examine the similarities and differences between statutory and contractual interpretation to help you understand both better.

Course content

Seminar 1: The problem

We'll discuss a few contrasting cases which illustrate the problems of statutory interpretation and the guiding principle of interpretation.

Seminar 2: The text

What is the text of a statute? Can the interpreter imply words or change them? It's commonplace that statutes must be read as a whole, but what does that mean in practice?

Seminars 3 and 4: The context

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

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

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?

Who this course is for

The course is aimed at lawyers, whether in private practice or working in-house or in universities or government

Non-lawyers are also welcome to attend.

Teaching and structure 

This series of eight online seminars will run from 12:45pm to 2pm each Thursday.

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

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

Costs and concessions

The standard price is £600.

Discounts are available for:

  • UCL Alumni
  • full-time students and academics
  • lawyers working in a government department or NGO
  • group bookings

UCL students can attend for free. 

Course team

Richard Calnan

Richard Calnan

Richard is a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright LLP in London and a Visiting Professor at UCL. He's 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).

Course information last modified: 5 Oct 2023, 11:03