Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New Edition of McGill Guide to Legal Citation

The McGill Law Journal recently completed the latest (6th) edition of its famous Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, also known as the McGill Guide or "that red book behind the reference desk with all the abbreviations in it" as the law clerks call it.

The Guide is the accepted authority on citation of legal materials. Canadian courts, legal periodicals, law faculties and lawyers rely on the Guide to maintain a uniform system of legal citation.

The newest edition includes new material pertaining to the following matters:
  • the neutral citation should apparently now come first in the list of parallel citations
  • material has been added dealing with electronic journals
  • there is updated information on citation to electronic databases
  • there are more abbreviations in the appendix (more court levels, more journal titles etc.)
  • a new section has been added for American courts
  • there is a section on international criminal tribunals
  • and much, much more
At the law firm library job I had before being hired by the Supreme Court, I was the "legal citation guy". 2 or 3 times a year, I held a seminar for articling and summer students on the general rules and some of the finer points of legal citation.

At first, I usually explained that proper legal citation was necessary to provide information about a case (parties, dates, court level, etc.) and help the reader retrieve that case. Then I would go into the details (comma here, italics there, bracketed dates here, dates in parentheses there, parallel citations somewhere or other). Very boring. People's eyes glazed over. I am sure some even fell asleep.

So, I developed a more Machiavellian, yet efficient technique to keep their attention: fear.

In the first minute or so of the presentation, I would report in my most serious tone of voice that senior partners at the firm were complaining that students and younger lawyers were making too many mistakes when it came to legal citation. Partners could no longer find and check many of the cases when reading some of the memos produced by juniors, and there could be "serious (but unspecified) consequences"!

Somewhat of an exaggeration, perhaps, but it ensured I had everyone's unflagging attention for the full hour. I have never since seen a bunch of people so fascinated by the more intricate details of punctuation and letter-spacing.

But I digress.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:45 pm

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