How to Figure Out the Bluebook

To be very honest, the Bluebook and citations terrified me at the beginning of 1L. It just seemed like so much to remember and I wasn't sure if I would be able to figure it out.

However, learning how to use the Bluebook gets a lot easier with practice, especially when you learn how to best use it!

Learn About Its Structure

There are three separate parts of the Bluebook: the Bluepages, the white pages, and tables. It's pretty easy to find where these sections of the Bluebook are located because the pages are color-coded. The Bluepages are (shocker) light blue, the white pages are highlighted with dark blue on the top of each page, and the tables are marked with dark blue along the edges.

The Bluepages are, as the Bluebook describes, a "how-to guide for basic legal citation." These are the general outlines of the rules contained in the rest of the Bluebook. My Lawyering Process describes these as practitioner's rules because the Bluebook recommends these are best used by law students, clerks, practicing lawyers, etc.

The white pages are the more detailed rules that are outlined in the Bluepages. These are the same rules as those in the Bluepages, but there's more information given in how to structure your citations. These are the pages that focus more on citations for academic writing, such as for law reviews.

Last but not least are the tables at the back. These are great for abbreviations, foreign citations, court names, and more.

If you check out the back cover, the inside of the back cover, and the inside of the front cover, you'll find some more helpful info! On the back cover, there is a table of contents, which I often use to find pages I haven't tabbed. The inside of the front cover is a table that gives examples of commonly used citation forms for academic righting, while the inside of the back cover is essentially the same table, but for practitioners.

Get Some Outside Help

For my Lawyering Process class, I was required to buy not just the Bluebook, but also Mastering and Understanding the Bluebook. This book is a little guide to the basics of legal citation and how to structure your citations. I found it super helpful throughout the year to refer back to it, especially at the beginning of 1L.

My favorite part is that it breaks down citations into what looks like a simple math problem--for example, a case citation would be "case name + volume + reporter + beginning page + pinpoint + court + year." When I was first learning how to do citations, this way of explaining citations was instrumental for me in understanding how to structure them.

Access to an online website connected to Mastering and Understanding the Bluebook is also available. It does cost some money, but I had a coupon in my book to get some money off. Even though I wasn't super happy to pay even more money on something for law school, I was required to access the website for class, and it ended up being really important to figuring out how citations work.

There are online exercises for certain types of citations that tell you why certain citations are correct and why some are incorrect. I was assigned some of these exercises for class, but, because I am a huge nerd and actually enjoy doing citations, I ended up doing a ton of these exercises for some extra practice.

Tab Your Bluebook

It's super useful to tab the Bluebook pages you use most often so you're not wasting time flipping through unhelpful pages. My tabs are color-coded as well, with pink tabs for tables and orange tabs for rules.

Here are the pages that I've found most useful to tab:

  • "Id." -- page 78
  • "Supra" -- page 80
  • Cases -- page 94
  • Constitutions -- page 118
  • Statutes -- page 120
  • Non-periodical Materials -- page 149
  • Periodicals -- page 159
  • Table 1 (U.S. Jurisdictions) -- page 233
  • Table 6 (Case Name Abbreviations) -- page 496
  • Table 13 (Periodical Abbreviations) -- page 510
Of course, you should customize your tabs to fit what you most often use--after all, the way I tab my Bluebook might not be the most helpful to you. 




Popular posts from this blog

How Law School Helped My Anxiety

Perfect Movies for Law Students

TV Shows for Law Students