Deciphering Legal Citations

Legal citations like to pack the largest amount of information in the smallest amount of space. However, if you are not familiar with the abbreviation for a specific law journal or reporter, it can be tricky figuring out what is being referred to from a few scant letters. Adding to the confusion is that one journal may be referred to by different abbreviations and the same abbreviation may be used for multiple law reports. (For example, does the B in B.L.R. refer to Business or Building or Burma?)

Fortunately there are a number of resources to assist in deciphering these abbreviations.

Donald Raistrick’s Index to legal citations and abbreviations, 4th ed. (London : Sweet & Maxwell, 2013) provides an extensive (if not exhaustive) list of legal abbreviations.

Appendix C of the McGill Guide lists the most common abbreviations for law journals.

If you are looking for an online resource, the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations lists legal abbreviations for publications from over 295 jurisdictions.

Susannah Tredwell (@hannasus)

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