How to Footnote a Legal Document

By Brian Richards

Legal documents must adhere to specific requirements of the court. Documents formatted incorrectly will be returned for corrections. If the document pertains to a matter in which the statute of limitations is approaching, these formatting errors could be the difference between filing on time and being too late. Correctly formatted footnotes are especially important and will typically contain citations to relevant legal material.

Using your word processor--with the desired document open--select "Insert" and then the option labeled "Footnote/Endnote."

Append a superscript number that matches the number of the footnote after any material that must be cited, such as quotes. There should be no space between the end of the material and the superscript number.

Select a font size for your footnote two points smaller than the body of your document. For instance, if you are writing in 12-point font, footnote your document using 10-point font.

Single-space your footnotes regardless of the spacing used in the body of your document.

Place any footnotes 1 inch above the bottom of your document and 1/4 inch below the last line in the body of your document.

Indent footnotes 1/2 inch from the left margin of your document. Footnotes should start with a superscript number and include a space between the number and the start of your footnote.

Format your citations in accordance with the court's legal citation style guidelines--typically either ALWD or Bluebook. Cases should be cited with the case name underlined, followed by a comma and the citation to the court reporter, and ended with the date of the decision in parenthesis. For instance: Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). Note that the case name "Brown v. Board of Education" would be underlined.

Use a single blank space between each footnote.

Do not continue your footnote to the next page if it does not fit. Instead, move the text in the body of the document to the next page so that each footnote appears fully on the page it is referenced.

About the Author

Brian Richards is an attorney whose work has appeared in law and philosophy journals and online in legal blogs and article repositories. He has been a writer since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from University of California, San Diego and a Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark School of Law.