Working Theory

by Michael Reed

Me?

I do employment law for the Free Representation Unit.

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michael at workingtheory.co.uk

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Lexis Nexis' paragraph numbers

26 March 2012

Online law reports are wonderful. But why does the typography so often have to be so bad?

Lexis Nexis’ reports, I’m afraid, are a particular bugbear of mine. Their treatment of paragraph numbers is absolutely infuriating. Take a look at one of their IRLR cases.

Why, I ask rhetorically, are the paragraph numbers placed equidistant between two paragraphs?1

It seems obvious that a paragraph number should be visually connected with the paragraph to which it refers. The simple way of doing this is to put it nearer to the text of that paragraph than to other paragraphs. Otherwise, you are left with a number marooned on the page, with no visual cue to indicate what it refers to.2

Contrast this with the far superior typography in the ICR reports from Justis.

Now, in fairness, Justis has the advantage of dealing in pdfs of the printed ICR reports. And the Industrial Council of Law Reporting has decent typography (as you would expect from a print outfit that’s been around since 1865).

But, frankly, the free service from BAILII does a much better job of this.

Nothing fancy – but it’s plain which number refers to which paragraph.

I find the Lexis Nexis paragraph numbering particularly annoying, because it just seems so unnecessarily bad.

I don’t think there can be a technical reason that makes it easier to do it this way. After all, it shouldn’t be that hard to instruct whatever system they operate to leave a little less space after the paragraph number than before it. So someone, at some stage, has decided to do it this way. But I honestly can’t understand what they were thinking.3

  1. I might also ask, rhetorically, are the paragraph numbers in bold font? It doesn’t seem to have any particular purpose and it gives the page as a whole an oddly spotty appearance.

  2. As well as being visually unsatisfactory, this causes real confusion. I’ve been in front of a Judge who had some difficulty following my paragraph references. He was unfamiliar with the Lexis Nexis reports and he couldn’t easily see which number refered to which paragraph. I’m convinced the whole problem could have been avoided by moving the number a few points closer to the relevant paragraph.

  3. If anyone does know, please drop me a line!

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