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Deciphering Legal Citations

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Deciphering Legal Citations

Understanding legal citations is crucial to understanding how to research legal information. Students are often given large lists of references to find. One of the first steps is to work out what your citation represents- is it a law reporting series, a journal, legislation or something else.

As an example, if you needed to find this citation [2012] 2 NZLR 726, the relevant steps are:

1. What does the abbreviation stand for? Use the following websites to interpret what NZLR represents: For New Zealand legal journals and reports use LCANZ www.lcanz.auckland.ac.nz, for overseas legal materials use Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations http://www.legalabbrevs.cardiff.ac.uk/.

LCANZ advises that NZLR is the preferred abbreviation for the New Zealand Law Reports.

2. Find the full text of the item. Use a library catalogue to confirm availability of a series in print or select the most relevant database that might contain the series. For example the New Zealand Law Reports are available from the LexisNexis NZ database. The citation elements are:

[2012]             2                           NZLR                             726

Year         Volume       Series Abbreviation      Starting page

Note for case law ensure you have the official or authorised version of your case.

3. Once you have the actual document cite it according to the New Zealand Law Style Guide.


Stephanie Carr, Library Manager Law, Davis Law Library, University of Auckland