Terrific legal-writing columns from the Michigan Bar Journal
“It is possible to fail in many ways....” —Aristotle

The Bluebook (19th ed.): Something I don’t need to practice law

At my work desk are two citation guides within arm’s reach: the 17th edition of the Bluebook and the third edition of the ALWD Citation Manual. I consult ALWD occasionally. I can’t remember the last time I consulted the Bluebook.

Recently the good folks at the HeinOnLine Blog announced the upcoming release of the Bluebook’s 19th edition, urging readers to pre-order their copies. I can understand why they’re excited: law reviews are their business. Me, I practice law for a living. There are many resources I need to do what I do. Not among them is the latest edition of the Bluebook.

As a practicing lawyer, here’s what I need to know how to cite, in descending order of importance: statutes, cases, constitutions, treatises, law-review articles, and web pages. Everything I need to know to cite those sources should fit on the front and back of one page. And except for web pages, citation of every one of those sources was covered in the Bluebook I used in law school in the 1980s.

If someone can show me that the Bluebook’s 19th edition will help me cite stuff that (a) I might actually cite in real-world legal practice, and (b) isn’t covered by a citation guide I already own, I might consider buying it. Otherwise, I’ll pass.


Jim Covington

Amen, brother.

Matt Harvey

The amount of time wasted in law schools teaching citation form is scary. My experience as a practicing lawyer is pretty much the same as yours: I can remember how to cite everything I need to cite, and nobody cares anyway, especially if I provide courtesy copies or the Lexis / Westlaw ciations.

A couple of years agop, as an experiment, I made a modest - and unsuccessful - attempt to identify any differences between the 14th and 16th editions.

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