Beyond the Bluebook: Teaching First-Year Law Students What They Need to Know About Legal Citation

There are several disadvantages to the traditional, Bluebook-centered approach to teaching legal citation. First, it ignores the reality that many federal and state jurisdictions have adopted other systems of citation, while very few have adopted the Bluebook. Second, it suggests to students that obscure Bluebook requirements like Table 6 are important and widely followed in practice, when in fact they are neither. Third, it consumes valuable time both inside and outside class that could be better spent mastering legal research, writing, and analysis.

This Article introduces a system of legal citation that is heavily focused on the types of authorities practicing lawyers cite most—cases and statutes—and that allows for flexibility in spacing and abbreviations. This goal-oriented approach to legal citation—in which citations must enable the reader to locate easily the source cited but need not do more—helps law students learn what they need to know about citations to succeed as practicing attorneys while not getting bogged down by the Bluebook’s minutiae.