Despite its spiral binding, the Bluebook is not known for flexibility.
It’s A Uniform System of Citation, and that uniformity means usually requires demanding attention to detail and rigidity. For a long time, legal writers had to turn to their well worn Rule 1.4 to check out the order of authorities for their string citations. It always followed a strict pattern roughly approximating the persuasive weight of the source material, from constitutions at the front end to secondary sources at the back end, with books always preceding periodicals, student written journal pieces always following professional works, and websites always bringing up the rear.
The new 21st Edition of the Bluebook gives us a rest. One of the big changes in the new citation manual is a major simplification of Rule 1.4. Now legal writers simply use their judgment and prioritize the most relevant materials in a string citation.
We are staying on top of these changes at the Law Library so we can help you produce the best, most up to date footnotes and citation sentences. We can also suggest study materials and online lessons to help you bring your citation A-game.
In other modernizations, the Bluebook is opening up to online resources, as Rule 12.3 has shifted to more readily accept unofficial federal codes from Westlaw or Lexis. Rule 12.5(b) follows suit, welcoming more online state and municipal codes into legal citations. And we no longer need to determine the release date of the last print edition of the United States Code: Rule 12.3.2 eliminates the date parenthetical from federal code citations.
International lawyers and students also have a wider range of online materials at their disposal, as Rule 21 now acknowledges the wider availability of treaties and other international materials. And in an increasingly visual online world, Rule 18.8 gives photographers and other visual artists their due, providing more concrete guidance on citing photos and graphics.
In a move that journal editors will cheer when they’re cite checking, Bluebook no longer includes separate tables for abbreviations in case names and common words in periodical titles: All of that information is now in the expanded Table 6, with Table 13 continuing to provide abbreviations of institutions such as universities and law schools.
The Bluepages have a few updates as well, with updates to Bluepages Table 2 to keep up with rules changes in various jurisdictions. And if you are practicing in a jurisdiction that limits the number of words that can appear in a document, the new Rule B6 provides a welcome change, providing the option to close spaces in the abbreviations of case reporters to conserve space, like so: F.Supp.2d.
And those changes are just some of the highlights to the new Bluebook, which also omits the bulky Table 2 on foreign materials from the print edition and places it on the website for free access.
Whether you’re adding footnotes to your graduate writing requirement or crafting a memo for your externship, the reference librarians are here to help. Feel free to make an appointment to meet with us via Zoom. For simpler questions, email us!
Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian