Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2004

Legal Practice Tips
The Bluebook Blues
ALWD introduces a superior citation reference book for lawyers
By Suzanne E. Rowe

Recent graduates and summer clerks are showing up in law offices with a new tool that makes citation easier than using The Bluebook. The ALWD Citation Manual: A Professional System of Citation is now used at about half of the law schools in the country – including all three Oregon law schools.

The ALWD Manual is a restatement of legal citation. It explains widely accepted citation rules and provides helpful examples. Citations that conform to the ALWD Manual are virtually identical to those produced under The Bluebook’s rules for practitioners.

While ALWD citations look familiar, the busy lawyer can find the necessary rules and examples in the ALWD Manual in less time with less frustration.

First published in 2000, the manual is the brainchild of the Association of Legal Writing Directors ("ALWD," pronounced ALL-wood), a society of law professors representing most law schools in the country. The primary author is Darby Dickerson, currently the dean of Stetson University College of Law and a recognized expert on legal citation. In contrast, The Bluebook is the responsibility of second- and third-year law students at four elite eastern law schools.

The alwd manual is superior
The ALWD Manual is a superior reference book for lawyers, even those who learned – and possibly still remember – the technicalities of The Bluebook. The ALWD Manual is both easier to read and easier to use. First, the layout of each page of the ALWD Manual is easier to read. The font is more visually pleasing, and there’s more white space per page.

The ALWD Manual is also easier to use. "Fast Formats" at the beginning of most citation rules provide quick examples of the citations covered by that rule. Whether you need to cite a case, statute, regulation, restatement, interview or website, an example is easy to find.

ALWD’s rules of citation are explained logically, step by step, in plain English. Illustrations of each rule are easy to see because the ALWD Manual uses two colors, green and black, with green highlighting examples.

"Sidebars" scattered throughout each chapter anticipate and answer the questions attorneys might have about citations or about new sources. For instance, one sidebar summarizes the rules on citing "unpublished" opinions. Another gives websites for locating local ordinances on the Internet.

An ALWD appendix contains information about primary sources of law, arranged by jurisdiction. This appendix provides the same type of information as Table 1 at the back of The Bluebook. Another ALWD appendix contains local court citation rules, which The Bluebook does not provide. Thus, Oregon’s requirement that reporter abbreviations not use periods is included in the ALWD Manual but not The Bluebook.

For all the reasons that the ALWD Manual is more helpful for attorneys, it is also an excellent tool for teaching citation to law students. In the seven years that I taught citation using The Bluebook, I encountered endless student frustration. Since switching to the ALWD Manual, student frustration has been minimal. A key reason is that the ALWD Manual begins with a few pages that explain the purpose of citation. Later the manual discusses how often to cite and lists criteria for selecting authorities to cite. Once students understand the goals of citations and know which sources to cite, technical rules make more sense. Mastering citation form is still tedious, but it no longer dominates the first-year experience in legal writing classes. Another reason the ALWD Manual works better in the classroom is that it has just one format for citations. Whether citations appear in court briefs or law review articles, in text or in footnotes, they have the same form. Unlike The Bluebook, the ALWD Manual has just one set of citation rules, the rules are easy to understand, and the examples are readily usable.

The experience of many professors is that students learn legal citation better and faster using the ALWD Manual than The Bluebook. That means students can spend more time learning legal research techniques and improving their analysis and writing.

ALWD-trained students tend to adapt easily to other citation systems, including the Oregon Appellate Courts’ Style Manual and The Bluebook, because they understand the fundamental goals of citation and are familiar with essential citation forms. At the University of Oregon, all first-year law students write at least one paper using Oregon citation rules. Students are also introduced to The Bluebook in small classes. In that introduction, they receive a short chart that summarizes the key differences between the ALWD Manual and the current Bluebook. (The chart, entitled ALWD-Bluebook Comparison, is provided by ALWD online at www.alwd.org/cm, under 2d Edition Teaching Resources.) One Oregon student reported receiving high praise for her "Bluebooking" skills last summer. She laughed as she admitted, "I don’t own a Bluebook. I used my ALWD Manual and the conversion chart."

Many attorneys remember struggling to learn The Bluebook. Its arcane rules are hard to find. Although its subtitle is "A Uniform System of Citation," it actually contains two systems of citation – one for law review footnotes and another for the documents lawyers write in practice. Many of The Bluebook’s examples are almost useless for practitioners because they are in the format of law review footnotes, which use large and small capitals. Of 350 pages in The Bluebook, only about a dozen are devoted to the citations used in legal memoranda and briefs. The rest of the explanations and examples must be translated from law review format to practitioner format, which requires reference to the Practitioners’ Notes at the front of The Bluebook. For instance, citation to an Oregon statute must be changed from "OR. REV. STAT. § 174.020 (2001) "to "Or. Rev. Stat. § 174.020 (2001)." This added step of citation translation wastes time.

The Bluebook has dominated citation because, since it was introduced in 1926, it has enjoyed a virtual monopoly as a national system of citation. While courts have their own rules of citation that are followed by attorneys within each jurisdiction, many courts – including Oregon’s appellate courts – defer to The Bluebook for matters not addressed by the local rules. But The Bluebook’s rules change with every new edition, and sometimes the changes have little merit. Perhaps the worst example was switching the meaning of the signal "See" in the 16th edition so that it appeared before almost every cite. Few attorneys adopted that rule, but many legal writing professors felt compelled to teach it to law students. (That rule was abandoned in the 17th edition.)

There are some minor differences between Bluebook and ALWD cites, but few attorneys will notice or be bothered by them. Most are covered in ALWD’s conversion chart. For example, The Bluebook requires that a page span include the last two digits but omit other digits (e.g., pages 506-07). The ALWD Manual allows the writer to choose whether to retain more than the last two digits, as long as the writer is consistent throughout the document (e.g., pages 506-507 or pages 506-07). As another example, under The Bluebook quotes may be presented in block format only if they exceed 49 words. Technically, this requires the attorney to count words. The ALWD Manual’s rule is more flexible, allowing a block format whenever a quotation exceeds four lines of text.

A slight difference that may initially catch your eye is the form of abbreviations. The Bluebook’s abbreviations use both apostrophes and periods (e.g., Int’l and Ctr.), while abbreviations under the ALWD Manual use only periods (e.g., Intl. and Ctr.).

The ALWD Manual is not perfect
The manual would be more helpful if Appendix 2 included local abbreviations for some of the more common Oregon sources of law, such as ORS for statutes and OAR for administrative rules. Instead that appendix simply notes that reporter abbreviations do not include periods, and then provides contact information for obtaining the Oregon Appellate Courts’ Style Manual. Another limitation is that the ALWD Manual does not include information on citing international material.

The manual contains one glaring mistake for Oregon citations. In Appendix 1, which contains information about primary sources of law in U.S. jurisdictions, the ALWD Manual inexplicably lists Oregon Revised Statutes Annotated as the official compilation of Oregon’s statutes. This mistake appeared in later printings of the first edition and somehow remained in the second edition. Students are told to correct this mistake the first time they use the ALWD Manual, and it should not trip up anyone in practice.

For lawyers and law students alike, using the ALWD Manual means producing clear citations with less work. So don’t be surprised when you ask a new law clerk to "Bluebook" a document, and she reaches for her ALWD Manual. You may want to borrow her copy for yourself.

Suzanne E. Rowe directs the Legal Research and Writing Program at the University of Oregon School of Law, where she is an assistant professor. She is a member of ALWD, but she had no part in drafting the ALWD Manual.

Editor’s note: Space prevented us from printing charts with samples of the citations and examples of abbreviations used in the ALWD manual. Here you can find these charts online.

© 2004 Suzanne E. Rowe

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