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LaTeX for Lawyers--some thoughts
self, camphone, eye
ouij
I've been looking into LaTeX for legal documents. I already use LaTeX for personal things, such as generating study outlines:

Screenshot-2
My 1L CivPro outline.

The best part about LaTeX is that it makes the structure of the documents trivially easy. I can forget about formatting, and concentrate on the content.

Of course, this is hardly WYSIWYG:

screenshot-20070221@024251

The green-and-black terminal window is what I see when I create a document in LaTeX--the finished product is shown up top.

Of course, TeX is generally a science, mathematics, & engineering thing; humanities types don't use it very much, and lawyers don't use it at all.

One problem is that we're already too wedded to our working methods. We rely on word processors to generate our documents--even though we could benefit from the more predictable behavior of a typesetting language like TeX.

Our citation style doesn't help, either. The Bluebook is needlessly complex, and its conventions are so idiosyncratic as to make it nearly impossible to use existing bibliographic styles and software to manage citations in a complex document.

That means that we're left fly-specking documents for stray commas or spaces. Not only is it annoying, I figure it's a waste of time.

Unfortunately, all the work implementing legal citation styles for TeX seems to be overseas. Jurabib was developed for German legal style--close, but not quite. biblatex doesn't quite do law. The most promising implementation, Camel, seems to have ceased development, and its lead developerhas dropped off the face of the Earth.

What I wish I had was the ability to bang out legal documents in TeX, and then specify my citations on the fly, in a way that's familiar to me as lawyer--something like LyX, with Camel support.

Sigh.

I suppose I shall have to make it myself, if I'm to have it--but I wish I had time to learn how to do that.

just added you - feel free to add back.

Hey, I just stumbled on your entry while I was searching for a TeX template for writing my outlines for class. After two years of messing around with Word I'm really tired of it.

Did you use a template for your outline, or did you write it all from scratch? I'm a TeX novice having only had a little exposure as an undergrad, so my lingo may be a little off. I'm just looking for a place to start building my outline.

what about Texmacs ?

(Anonymous)

2010-03-14 01:02 pm (UTC)

I also like the tex engine , but i prefer wysiwg interface, howewer i m not enough familiar with lynx , I have find the Texmacs project : http://www.texmacs.org/ , it s really good point free software, i did write some law document for my course with it ,but didn't automatize the bibliography and footnote cross referencing . I dono for footnote but for bibliography , the texmacs can be automated with bibtex style file . I didn't dig on it , maybe it seems the most project near project for a Tex engine usable for lawyers

This sounds like a good project. I'm looking at a probably summer of unemployment. I used LaTeX during law school and would like to use it for generating litigation documents.

Have you seen this? - http://willhardy.com.au/aglc-and-latex/. This is a biblatex style for the Australian equivalent of Bluebook, the Australian Guide to Legal Citation. It shouldn't be too hard to make a Bluebook version using this as a base.

Has anyone made any progress on this?

No, sorry. I had to graduate, and then I had to pass the bar. I haven't really had the time to sit and learn enough TeX to make it work. Plus, the hated Bluebook went into yet another edition.

If there's anyone out there who's looking for a good TeX/BibTex project this is a good one--just not one I have the skills or the time to do.

I can't imagine that this is something that anyone other than a commercial software company could implement. The blue-book is over a hundred pages and changes all the time. Lexis and Westlaw have had products that try to do this although they never caught on and I doubt they were successful at handling the more complex citations. This effort gets even more complicated because certain courts have special rules and certain types of citations (e.g., state legislative history) are not even in the bluebook.

But you could easily do a subset of it, for just books and articles and the like. Cases and statutes could be handled manually. After all, they don't go into the same bibliography anyway.

I think vi/emacs, git, tex, and a few other unix tools could do wonders for law firms. For a profession that produces documents and has lots of money to throw around it's surprising that's not how things are already done.

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