A footnote is a type of citation inscribed at the bottom of a page. The roles of a footnote in academic writing includes:

  • To provide additional information about a superscribed text without deviating the reader’s attention from the subject matter in the piece.
  • To properly cite a superscribed text.

Most referencing styles permit the use of footnotes in academic papers. However, footnotes are most appreciated with referencing styles in legal writing.

Writing academic papers in law differs from other disciplines. This is so because of the vast amount of citations used when writing a legal piece. Example of such citations includes the incorporation of statutory and legal provisions as well as past case judgments in write ups to prove the authenticity of the research. Hence, in order to pile the work up with well written cases and other informational citations plus additional notes, footnotes are required. This article will educate you on how to efficiently footnote a legal case.


A legal case is any dispute which is resolved by both parties in a court. Since most courts make use of ‘stare decisis’, which is simply means deciding a current similar case based on the judgement in a past similar case, all the cases decided in a court ought to be recorded in one way or another. Among other things, case judgments are also used in legal teachings and writings.

Cases can be grouped into two forms namely:

  • Reported cases.
  • Unreported cases.

Depending on the case form, it can be cited and footnoted differently. However, the basic information needed to footnote a legal case includes:

  • The name or title of the case.
  • The date when the case judgement was passed.
  • A citation or public information regarding the case.


A reported case refers to a court judgement that is published in legal reports or books. There are different types of law reports which can be used to keep record of past cases decided in courts. Example of some includes:

  1. Nigerian Weekly Law report or NWLR
  2. All England Law Reports or ALL ER.

Based on the NALT referencing style, the format used for citing and footnoting a reported case includes:

Case name[year]|report abbreviation|first page|(court).

The initial title of the case will first of all be cited in an italicized and superscribed text. For example: Adenuga v Nwike1 or a little fact about the case will be written and superscribed with a number. The essence of this number is to ascertain the numerical order in which the footnoted cases will be arranged. Based on the aforementioned information above, a footnoted case also ought to be italicized and written in small letters, excluding the first letter. Both the citation and the footnote can be written in the following way:

Citation: Adenuga v Nwike1

Footnote: 1[2019]1 N.W.L.R 46(HC).

After citing the case in the footnote, the writer can go further to write a very brief summary about the case as well as additional notes if necessary.


This involves cases which do not get published in a law report. The mode of citation quite differs from the reported cases.

The basic information needed for citing an unreported case includes:

Name of the parties involved in the dispute(|date which the court passed judgement).

For example: Ademola v Josiah(1888)

If the case has a neutral citation, the footnote will contain a court name and number as well.


A neutral citation is a unique number given to the judgment of all cases decided in the high court divisions in the country. This method was created in 2001 to mark the use of electronic law reports. Both reported and unreported cases could consist of a neutral citation.

When a reported case includes a neutral citation, the basic information that will be needed to footnote the case will include:

Case name|[year]|court|number|(year)|report abbreviation|first page.

The second date in the citation refers to the year the judgement was passed.

A reported case with a neutral citation can be written as:

Adenuga V Pierce[2018] UKHC 564 (Ch),(2021) ALL ER 449.

For unreported cases, the court name and number will be included after the date in the citation.

It can be written as ‘Ademola v Pierce(2001)UKHC 155.


The following points also ought to be put into consideration during a during the footnoting process.

  1. The popular name of the case can be used in the citation. This can be done by imputing, in a bracketed form, the popular name that the case is known with, after the citation.
  2. Common names like ‘Company’,’manufacturer’, ‘limited’ and so on ought to be abbreviated during the citation process. For example, if the full name of a case is ‘Brogden v Metropolitan Railway company’, the ‘company’ in the statement can be abbreviated to ‘co.’
  3. The word ‘Re’ should be used when adding an extra note to a case citation instead of its full meaning. For example Re Marriage Act should be used in place of ‘in matter the matter of’
  4. If there are multiple names to be cited in a case, from both disputing sides. The citation should only include the name of the first appellant. Just like an in-text citations ‘ors’ will be included to signify ‘and others’.
  5. Phrases like ‘such as’ and ‘another’ may be found in legal reports, however they should be omitted from the case citation.
  6. While footnoting, if the name of the case is used in the body of the legal piece, it will be omitted from the footnotes. If the only thing cited in the body of the work is a superscribed number, the footnote should contain the full citation of the case.
  7. The full citation of a case is only required once, if the citation keeps recurring in the piece, only its abbreviation will be used.
  8. In legal writing and citations, reported cases ought to be cited more than unreported cases. That way, it will be easier for the reader of the piece to find and further read the cases cited.


The Inner Temple Library(2021),Guide to Neutral Citations. Retrieved from

The NALT uniform citation guide(n.d)Part II.The NALT uniform Citation-Guide style of referencing. Retrieved from

University of West London Library(n.d), Writing with OSCOLA. Retrieved from


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