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How to hyperlink your advices to specific statutory provisions cited

July 12th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Speaking of the as yet relatively unexplored marvel of being able to hyperlink in legal writing, as I was in the last post, I put out a 30-odd page advice on the interrelationship of the Victorian and several federal proportionate liability regimes the other day. I find one of the most difficult parts of legal writing to be submissions, or advice, about statutory construction. Some provisions yield up to the reader’s mind  that which they are code for just by reference to the section number: for Australian lawyers, maybe s. 109 of the Constitution, and s. 52 of the Trade Practices Act, 1974.  For all the others, though, there is the problem that the reader has to look up the statute to see what concept the section number signifies. Ideally, you can introduce the concepts and then refer to them in a summary way without reference to the section number. So I tend to talk about the prohibition of misleading or deceptive conduct rather than s. 52 of the Trade Practices Act, 1974, once I have made it clear that I am talking about the s. 52 prohibition and not some other one.  But you just can’t always achieve that.  Where that happens, it is really useful to hyperlink to the provision. One click of the mouse, and the reader is staring at the words which articulate the concept signified by the section number.

So in my advice, I hyperlinked many of the references to statutory provisions. The links went in each case to a web page on Austlii which contained only that section.  Defined terms in the provision are themselves hyperlinked to the definitions section.  By way of example (ignore its content!):

‘The Fair Trading Act, 1999 correlate of s. 52 of the Trade Practices Act, 1974 is s. 9: Wardley Australia Ltd v Western Australia (1992) 175 CLR 514.

My advice was the first I had ever seen which incorporated this simple but incredibly useful device. Most legal secretaries would be well able to do this on behalf of the people they work with. Modern day articled clerks can probably do it with their eyes shut. If you really got excited about it, you could just send your advices over to India and ask them to insert the hyperlinks and email it back to you in half an hour.

I have various databases of Austlii separately bookmarked. With that slight advantage, it took me just over 2 minutes to find the pages for s. 9, s. 52, and Wardley’s Case, and paste them as hyperlinks over the associated text in a Word document, but if you’re already working off the electronic version of the statute, as I often do, it’s a snap to cut and paste the URL you’re already at into the advice you’re working on. So here’s how you do it, assuming you’re using Word for Windows:

1. Go to the internet page you want your word document to hyperlink to and select (triple clicking is how I do it on my Mac) and then copy (ctrl + C) the entire address of that page (doesn’t matter how long it is).

2. Go to your Word document, and select the text you want to hyperlink.

3. Hit ctrl-K, which will bring up the hyperlink dialogue box.

4. Paste what you copied into the bit of the dialogue box it defaults to. Basically, this probably means all you have to do when you see the dialogue box is hit ctrl-V (paste), then hit OK.

To get to the section-per-page bit of Austlii is easy. Go to the main page, choose a jurisdiction under the heading ‘Cases and legislation’ (e.g. Victoria) , choose from there (e.g. ‘Vic consolidated Acts‘). You get to an alphabet. Choose the one you want (e.g. ‘F‘), choose the statute you want (e.g. Fair Trading Act, 1999) and then scroll down the table of contents and choose the particular Act you want. Then scroll down the list of provisions, and click on one. Clicking on “index” or “table” when you have burrowed far into the Act seems to get you back to this page. And then look at what happens when you press ‘Noteup’! It’s Casebase for free. Getting there, anyway.

Just be aware that as soon as the law changes, your advice will probably link to the new law. The link is dynamic.  You are not linking forever to the law at the time of writing.

If there is a way of linking directly to a particular paragraph in a judgment published on Austlii, I haven’t worked it out. Anyone?

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Tags: Legal writing