Skip to main content

The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (McGill Guide): Introduction

The McGill Law Journal and the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation are affiliated with the Faculty of Law of McGill University (Montreal).  Informally known as the McGill Guide, the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation was developed for the advancement of legal scholarship and is a uniform system of legal citation for the Canadian legal system.  With rules governing citations in both official languages (English and French), it allows those within the legal system (lawyers, judges, law professors, students, and publishers) to conduct legal research efficiently and provides the author with a standardized method of communicating their intended message to the reader.

The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 10th Edition, provides all the rules for citing (or referencing) legal information (legislation, jurisprudence, secondary materials) in your essays and assignments.

The McGill Guide citation style is used mainly in legal studies and the humanities where the citation of legal cases, legislation, legal decisions, etc. is required.  Used mainly for citing legal cases, a citation does serves two main purposes: 1) it allows the reader to find the decision, and 2) it conveys valuable information about the case such as the year it was handed down, court level, jurisdiction, and case history (if included).  A citation will only achieve these purposes for the reader if it is accurate.  Accurate citations direct the reader where to locate the law.

Be sure to follow the McGill Guide when you are required to cite legal information in your essays and assignments.  Check your assignment rubric or with your professor and/or TA as to citing non-legal information; they may require an additional citation style such as CMS or APA.

The McGill Guide requires the following:

Footnotes

In legal writing, footnotes are the most common way of citing (referencing) material.  There are two types of footnotes:  textual and citation.  Textual footnotes reference material/research of related interest to the subject but which does not directly impact the focus of the paper.  Citation footnotes cite the source of the argument or quotation used.  A single footnote can contain both textual and citation information.

In the body of your paper, footnotes are indicated by superscripted numbers. When paraphrasing, place the footnote at the end of the sentence after the punctuation.[1] If citing just one word[2], the footnote number is placed directly after the word.  When quoting from a source (and writing in English), place the footnote after “the quotation marks”[3and/or “the punctuation”.[4(See McGill Guide for the applicable French rule).

In-text citations

In legal writing, the standard is to use footnotes to cite all materials.  There are exceptions to this rule for certain types of documents, namely Memorandum and Factum.

Memorandum

  • Include the reference immediately after the text, in parentheses.
  • Follow the rule for footnotes when referencing material the first time.  Should a reference be repeated in the text, include a short form after the first citation.
  • The short form of the reference should be used each subsequent time the reference appears in the text and should include the pinpoint reference information (McGill Guide 3.6.1.).
  • Use ibid (McGill Guide 1.4.2) and supra (McGill Guide 1.4.3.) as appropriate.

Factum

  • Use the short form in parentheses immediately after the text.
  • Write out the complete reference at the end of the paragraph.  This reference must be indented from both margins and use a smaller font than the body text font.
  • References should be organized in the order in which they appear in the text.
  • Use supra rules (McGill Guide 1.4.3.); do not used ibid or infra in a factum.

Bibliography

In legal writing, bibliographies are divided into sections:  Legislation, Jurisprudence, and Secondary Materials.  The Secondary Materials section may be further divided into subsections by type and the materials themselves divided into Domestic Sources and Foreign Sources.

Within each section, list your entries in alphabetical order.  Legislation is to be sorted by title, jurisprudence by style of cause and secondary materials by surname of author. The McGill Guide provides specific rules for each section, including formatting requirements.

Books

Journal Articles

Newspapers

Tip: 

The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation is updated every four years. The most recent edition (8th) was published in 2014. To ensure that you are citing your legal sources correctly to eliminate potential plagiarism queries and to meet the requirements of your essays and assignments, reference the most recent edition of the Guide.

The UOIT library has reference copies under the call letters KE259 .C35 2010; a quick guide is also available online at http://shared.uoit.ca/shared/department/library/docs/LegalCitation.pdf.

More information about the journal and cite guide may be found at the web site http://lawjournal.mcgill.ca/index.php

McGill Law Journal, online:  http://lawjournal.mcgill.ca/en/text/22

McGill Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 7th edition, Toronto:Thomson/Carswell, 2010). Queen’s University, Legal Research Manual (November 24, 2010), online: http://library.queensu.ca/law/lederman/legalcitation.

University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Your Quick Guide to Citing Legal Sources based on Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation McGill Law Journal (August 2011), online: http://shared.uoit.ca/shared/department/library/docs/LegalCitation.pdf.


[1] McGill Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 7th ed. (Toronto: Thomson/Carswell, 2010) at 1.3.2.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.