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Abolish the Blue Book? Or Could We Automate It?

Bluebook Ilya Somin, an associate professor at George Mason University School of Law, says it's time to abolish the "Blue Book." For those of you who did not have the pleasure of attending law school or serving on a law review, the Blue Book is a dastardly creation that attempts to create a uniform and hyper-complex method by which lawyers are expected to cite to legal authority in briefs, articles and so on.

In this post on The Volokh Conspiracy, Somin argues that the Blue Book, which he describes as a "a massive tome, over 400 pages long, with rules for every conceivable situation and some that probably are not conceivable," should be abolished and replaced "with a simple citation system such as that used in virtually every other academic field."

Why? First and foremost, Somin argues, the Blue Book is "an enormous waste of time and effort." In a dead-on analysis that surely has law review editors' nodding their heads in agreement from coast-to-coast, Somin states that:

Every year, law review editors across the country spend thousands of man-hours editing articles to make sure that they conform to the Blue Book rules, taking Blue Book tests, and engaging in other Blue Book-related activities. ... This time could easily be spent in more productive ways, such as studying, research, clinical work, or even working on your tan at the beach.

He had me at "working on your tan," but Somin offers several other reasons to do away with the Blue Book. These include the argument that there is no evidence from other academic fields that having a simple citation system leads to lower-quality scholarship. In addition, he notes, some law reviews such as at the University of Chicago have used the much simpler "Maroon Book" system since 1986, with no decline in scholarship.

Or, how about this, as a 21st century solution that I hereby take full credit for:

Microsoft bakes the 400 pages of the Blue Book into a lawyer-focused version of its Word software, the same way it does with dictionaries and rules of grammar. When you want to cite something, you just take your best shot at it off the top of your head, such as "Georgetown Law Review, May 21, 2010, page 67." Word will then flag your incorrect cite (the same way it does a misspelled word) and help you automatically turn it into whatever the Blue Book demands such a cite is supposed to look like -- which, if memory serves, will involve upper- and lowercase capital letters and other such nonsense.

Posted by Bruce Carton on May 21, 2010 at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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