Legal Citations

Paralegal Resource
June 29, 2012 — 1,195 views  
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Paralegals constantly deal with complex legal terms and citations as part of their work, and even a single misinterpretation can detract from the success of a court case or argument. There is no official guide to legal citations, but any legal staff members would do well to research some of the following principles to avoid any controversy.

Full address principles

These are frequently used in libraries and collections when cataloguing an extensive amount of cases becomes difficult. Full address principles designate the address or identification of a cited document or excerpt in easy-to-find, simple terms. If the document in question is posted or stored online, a website URL, server address or other electronic information may be attached so that a lawyer can search and find the precedent without much trouble.

Other information is frequently included in a full address principle to give a paralegal or reader the most data possible on the creation of the given document. For example, the author's name, year of creation and date of case decision are all commonly-used additions.

Compacting principles

The idea behind this principle is explained in its name - a compacting principle reduces the physical space needed to store information within a document or legislation. Abbreviations are a hallmark of a compacting principle, so paralegals must be able to distinguish between similar acronyms and other shortenings. The language of the abbreviations can vary from author to author, so it is important to cross-check citations with other sources to ensure maximum accuracy.

Format principles

Format principles refer to the punctuation and grammar present in a legal citation. This includes aspects like typography and font, along with the chronological order of case specifics and mandatory information. Again, the standard form of these particular citations varies according to personal preference, so a paralegal should use his or her best judgement when using this language.

When authoring any legal document, a paralegal must be sure to use one or all of the previously mentioned citations. Citing precedence is an integral part of the legal world, and lawyers and attorneys are trained from day one of law school to trust in the past. A proper citation can mean all the difference in a court case or legal write-up, and could even influence future generations who will come to cite a document or analysis.

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