Legal Citation Online

One of the most frequent questions law students ask about legal research is whether the “McGill Guide” is online. Of course it is not. There is, however, an online “American” citation guide – Peter W. Martin’s Introduction to Basic Legal Citation at– but this does not have Canadian content.

In checking out Wikipedia on various legal research related topics, I see that they have a good article entitled “Case Citation” at which, although emphasizing US case citation, does provide examples of Canadian, British, Australian and NZ case citations. Unfortunately, there is a comma missing in the first Canadian case citation example to the Big M Drug Mart case . . . .


  1. The thought of putting the McGill guide online is one that has occured to me several times while sitting at the reference desk with students writing papers and taking LRW. This would obviously be a subtantial task, because I believe one would want to take advantage of dynamic anchors rather than just scaninng the guide into a pdf format. Perhaps this is one of those projects that Simon has mentioned as a possibility for Slaw to take on? (With all the proper permissions of course!)

  2. Why isn’t the McGill Guide online?
    Its antipodean equivalent certainly is:

  3. And pace Mark, the Australian is simply a flat PDF

  4. Little point – the term “Style of Cause” used in the Wiki for the Australian example has no meaning at all down here. The first time I came across it when working in Canada I had no idea what it could mean. Isn’t a scream how the language of the law is so different jurisdictionally?

  5. I’d love to be able to put the guide on line. It’d be a project that Slaw could work on piecemeal. Anyone thing there’s a ghost of a chance? Surely it’s not on line because the publisher wants to make money off the sale of the book.

  6. I’m treading on dangerous ice, because all of this dates back over twenty years, and I’m relying on memory, but I seem to recall that around 1982 or 1983 the editors of the McGill Law Journal came to the CLIC Legal Literature Committee (which I then chaired) and sought a very small amount of seed money to get the McGill Guide launched. I think CLIC – and perhaps even I – was thanked, in the first one or two editions. Alan Turnbull who was then running Carswell, offered to print it as a contribution to legal research in Canada. Altruistic, yes, since he expected the work to at best cover production expenses, though the adoption of an accepted system of uniform citation would also benefit the publishing community. Little did we know how widely accepted the Guide would be: see

    Copyright has not been assigned and is held by the Trustees of the McGill Law Journal Trust Fund [whoever they are]. Unless the licensing agreement with Thomson gives Carswell an exclusive in all media, I’d have thought that the way is open for Slaw to approach the Trustees [who would likely defer to the current editors] to see whether an electronic version [or at the very least, some PDFs] would be consistent with the objectives of the Trust.

  7. If we intend to pursue this, I would volunteer to be involved.

  8. I’m going to pursue it by approaching the McGill Law Journal with the idea and the request that they ask the “trustees.” I’ll let everyone know if they’re interested.

  9. As an aside, yesterday at the Law Library I had a student who was wondering if the McGill guide was online as her friend had returned home for the holiday but had a paper due on the 30th and had forgotten her McGill Guide in Halifax. As a result she had asked her friend to send it to her via mail (or courier I expect) so that she could do her citations and hand her paper in on time. In this day and age, it seemed a rather odd situation to me.

  10. Sounds like a worthy project from the SLAW Collective!

  11. I’ve “spoken” (email) to the McGill Journal people who tell me that they’ll get back to me after the holidays.

  12. I followed this thread with great interest since I work at McGill’s Law Library and have also been asked numerous times if the Cite Guide is available online. I always tell these students to contact the McGill Law Journal to let them know that there is quite a demand for an electronic version.

    I would be thrilled to be involved in such an initiative. Thanks for keeping me posted.

    Bonne année to one and all!

  13. Is this initative currently in a dead end (having the McGill Citation Guide online)? *curious*

    The copyright holder could just agree to licensethe Guide under a Creative Commons License?

  14. Yes, Patrick, alas: the McGill Guide people are going with their commercial publisher — which will mean that if it gets on line at all it’ll be for $.

    There’s no reason, though, why we couldn’t do our own guide… Is there?

  15. ok thanks. Our own guide online – well that’s ambitious! ;-) For now I’m focusing my efforts on launching Government 2.0 Think Tank off the ground – had an interview with a journalist from the Ottawa Citizen today and the story will be in the paper next Thursday, probably.

  16. If someone were to scan the McGill guide as a flat pdf and put in on a website, what would the legal consequences be?