The NEW Bluebook

bluebook1

For those of you who are not, or who have never been, law students — the BlueBook is a 1″ thick guide to citing legal sources in law review articles. Judges don’t give a shit if you use correct BlueBook citation format – they go with the system in the cartoon above. Clients don’t give a shit. Nobody who matters for 99% of the careers of 99% of the lawyers out there gives a shit.

Nevertheless, these law-student-invented rules are written down, every year, in a “new” edition. Worse than that, thousands of law students then take “Legal Research and Writing,” where they spend most of their effort making sure that the period is in the right place when they cite a case, thus learning nothing about actual writing.

We don’t need the BlueBook. It is a distraction from the true craft of legal writing. In my courses, I tell the students that I never check their BlueBook citations and I never will. If I can find the source from their footnote, then it is good enough for me.

It is the only book in existence that actually makes the world a shittier place. The BlueBook is the only book in the world that I believe should be banned, all existing copies burned, and it should never published again.

Image courtesy of Courtoons with a big honkin hat tip to Quizlaw.

10 Responses to The NEW Bluebook

  1. Janet Blank says:

    Wait, I’m confused. You want logic to apply to legal writing courses? Brother, I was a straight A student at a seven sister school, and my major was English Literature. My writing was, dare I say, superior to most incoming law students. Did I pass Legal Writing as a 1L? Technically, yes. Practically, just barely. No logic. Just bullshit.

  2. Lisa says:

    I am proud to be one of the 1%. It drives me crazy when I see things cited incorrectly. Especially the way you cite to Florida Statutes. Don’t get me started…I use my blue book pretty regularly…but then again I am a control freak/OCD/anal/whathaveyou.

  3. Kara says:

    Although the cartoon is funny, I love the Bluebook. Why? Because it’s one of the only things in the legal field that has an exact right answer. It pains me to read associate work that is bluebooked incorrectly. A brief that contains multiple citation errors is the result of laziness. Upon completing a draft, get out the Bluebook and conform the citations. At least, even if the rest of the writing sucks, the level of effort will be apparent. :):)

  4. Oh, you WOULD say that! :)

    I guess I can live with citation errors — as long as the “errors” are a) consistent (if you use a comma after “see” in one place, use it everywhere) and b) if the “errors” don’t act as an impediment to finding the source. In other words, if I can use the “get by citation” function in westlaw or lexis to get the document, then the citation is good enough for me.

  5. Tanner Andrews says:

    I suppose it would be considered unreasonable to have the word processor format the citations automatically, the same way, every time. Might not be perfectly correct, but (a) they can be found (b) they are consistent.

    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. [insert cite here]

  6. smurfy says:

    As a non lawyer, all I care about is that your cite returns a first page google hit.

  7. smurfy says:

    Or better yet, a link to the motion/decision, legal satyricon style.

  8. […] (Is it too much to hope that the BigLaw cull will lead to the demise of the Bluebook, which Mark Randazza (The Legal Satyricon) epigrammatically describes as “the only book in existence that actually makes the world a shittier place“?) […]

  9. California makes things even more interesting. We have our own style manual here, but the Bluebook is optional. Where I live, I can’t tell if the rule is that no one follows the California style manual; no one follows the Bluebook; no one follows either; or we mix them.

    I try to get the cites “perfect,” but it doesn’t really bother me a lot that others don’t. (I do notice it, though.) What DOES bother me, though, is the failure to use parallel cites. The reason is that often enough, someone will transpose numbers, leave them off, or just get them wrong. Then I can’t find the cite. Using parallel cites gives me an extra shot at finding the case.

    Unfortunately, where I practice, the one consistent rule seems to be “don’t use parallel cites.” If you are reading a prosecutor’s brief, it seems to be coupled with a rule that says, “When it matters, screw up the numbers to make the case hard or — if you’re really good and screw up the year, too — impossible to find.”

  10. The Writer says:

    This rule will NOT make any more money for Bluebook publishers…and it’ll take away the little enjoyment that law review editors with no social lives have in this world…

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