May 5, 2006

Top Five Reasons Why I Hate the Bluebook

Top Five Reasons Why I Hate the Bluebook:

5) It’s not even really a book, but more a spiral-bound manual that sits awkwardly on a shelf because it is spineless and prone to slumping (kind of like law students, sometimes). When shelved horizontally, it is hard to distinguish from the instruction manual that came with your facsimile machine in the mid-80s.

4) The Bluebook is most closely associated with Law Reviews and Journals, a fundamental central column of the traditional (read: white and privileged) law school path. While I have respect for writers, the straight line drawn from having Law Review on your resume and a so-called prestigious job upon graduation is problematic (more below).

3) The Bluebook is the formal codification of rules maintained, updated, deliberated, and propagated by privileged law students at four of the “elite” law schools (Harvard, Yale, UPenn, and Columbia Law Review staff). I have a visceral revulsion towards these schools, the privilege and entitlement inherent in the old guard and the old ways of doing things. Why? Because people of color weren’t allowed into these institutions, they represent an old order hat doesn’t acknowledge my equal standing, looks down upon my public school upbringing, and feels entitled to leadership. I, and the many practitioners who are tired of standards driven by elite students, will take AWLD any day, even through it’s not likely to become the standard for quite some time, if at all. Then again, when I look at the detailed description of the AWLD manual, it’s also not really very different, save in the way that court document citations differ from academic articles. Oh well. Forget the endorsement herein included.

2) I’m a bit of a grammar nut in civilian writing (though you may not be able to glean that from these pages), but I have had the hardest time with the counter-intuitive rules of the Bluebook, and I find myself caring less and less about the placement of commas, the minutiae of where one must underline and what order and in which short configuration one must cite to case law and other references, not to mention signal hell (e.g., like, see, but, see also, as if, whateva!). Frankly, the Blue Book has gotten me to pay more attention to the citation sentence than the actual textual sentence. Oh yeah, and perhaps my biggest pet peeve is that an ellipse in legal writing has to have a space between the periods, or in other words: “ . . . ” instead of “...” Let writers write, damn it!

1) It is embraced by the cream of the nerd crowd as the standard by which to distinguish different legal writing, regardless of the actual content of the work. Whether I underline/italicize the right way is not going to increase access to justice. It will be the structure of my argument, and the content of my discussion. At least, that’s what I have to hope, because if I believe our writing department, it’s not just suspicion of sloppiness that will raise eyebrows, but even the errant ellipse or e.g. will get my case thrown off a court’s docket. If that’s the truth, then forget the fair adjudication of issues of critical concern. I’m throwing in the towel and finding myself a small bar to run on a beach somewhere.

As you can tell, especially the lawyers and law students out there, this list is more about law journals/law reviews and the importance given to them in the hierarchy of law school activities than it is about the Bluebook itself (though I definitely have issues with it on its own). Maybe this is just bitterness because it’s that lovely finals time of the year again.

No comments: