The Bluebook is one of those fixtures—dare I say institutions—that professors, judges, and practitioners love to hate. Judge Posner recently (and famously, as his article “went viral” as much as one can among the online legal community) criticized The Bluebook as “a monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture.” As someone who served as an executive editor of a top law review and whose job encompassed editing every footnote to conform to Bluebook rules, I was simultaneously amused and annoyed upon reading Judge Posner’s scathing diatribe. In my view, The Bluebook is on par with everything else about the law in its current and historic form: an ivory tower of “heretofores” and “thereins” inaccessible to most of those whose will it purports to embody. But more than merely perpetuating that characterization, The Bluebook actually achieves what the rest of the legal world has thus far failed to find—cohesion.
Have you heard that Judge Richard Posner hates the Bluebook? Of course you have. It’s been all over the blawgosphere lately. But thanks to the UGA Law Library Blog, which posted a direct link to the article, I actually read it. True to form, the article is brief, articulate, and humorous. As someone who is regularly frustrated by citation practices, I could appreciate Posner’s points. Particularly interesting is the inclusion of the style sheet that Judge Posner provides to his own clerks.
By far, the best tip I got out of his article was a reference to a terrific piece by Professor Ian Gallacher: Cite Unseen: How Neutral Citation and America’s Law Schools Can Cure our Strange Devotion to Bibliographical Orthodoxy and the Constriction of Open and Equal Access to the Law. 70 Albany Law Rev 491 (2007). Professor Gallacher argues that the current citation format fetish reinforces the West/LexisNexis caselaw duopoly:
Friends, lawyers–did you know that the Bluebook is available online? I confess, I did not until a couple weeks ago.
I needed to research citation formats, but my Bluebook was sadly out of date (think law school). I didn’t want to wait for the copy to arrive by mail, so I bought an online subscription. I was kind of skeptical. After all, half the benefit of the book is all the little tabs and notes that you’ve added over the years. I was impressed by the service though, so I thought I would share.