ScholarlyMarkdown is a syntax/standard/best-practice of scholarly and academic communication that is web-first, semantic XML-second, and LaTeX/Word a close third. Its main goal is to produce a semantically model of a scholarly article based on Markdown input, and translate it to a variety of formats that is suitable for both online scholarly communication, archiving, and publication.
ScholarlyMarkdown introduces some new syntax for scholarly and academic features. However, at the same time it aims to be composed of 100% valid Github-Flavored Markdown and PHP Markdown Extra syntax and almost 90% backwards compatibility with existing renderers of those syntaxes, while being 100% compatible with Pandoc-markdown. It contains no completely new syntax over the previous standards, and instead provides its power from conventions.
Furthermore, ScholarlyMarkdown borrows a unique templating system/language from Pandoc with variables and metadata that may be set using YAML blocks inside the document. This allows flexibility to configure the output formatting to your heart’s content without polluting the source text with presentation-specific code.
This looks like a worthwhile and promising project. It is important to note that the “scholarly” part is really a reference to including math and figures in Markdown and it requires a modified fork of Pandoc for rendering into HTML.
If you want to try Markdown with legal stuff see https://github.com/compleatang/legal-markdown and http://legalmarkdown.com/.
If you want to author legal scholarship, or any other scholarship, in a plain text format and skip Word or WordPerfect altogether, I’d recommend using AsciiDoc, it was built for authoring complex documents like scholarly articles. For an example of legal scholarship in AsciiDoc see my article The Classical Roots of Binary Economics at http://elide.us/96.