Battling the Bluebook: My Epic Quest for Journal Membership
Like many 1Ls, I started my law school career with lofty goals. One of the Big Things I Wanted To Do was to be on the staff of a journal. I was an English major in college and had loved writing since I could remember.
Plus, I was one of those strange people who actually enjoyed editing other people’s work. Surely, I was cut out for this job.
Little did I know, I would have to first pass an obstacle of Herculean proportions. Nor did I know that this obstacle would be blue, and about nine inches tall.
It began innocently enough when I purchased books for my Lawyering course in the fall of my 1L year. Compared to my casebooks, the Bluebook was inexpensive and I hardly gave it a moment’s thought as I placed it on my bookshelf.
That is, until Lexis Interactive Citation Workshop drills – better known as ICWs – were assigned. ICWs are online Bluebook citation-editing exercises. During the first few months of school, my wonderful Lawyering professor, Lynn Lu, assigned us several of these little exercises per week. Just ten little ICWs. How bad could it be?
Flash forward to me sitting in front of my laptop, frustrated nearly to the point of tears, gazing out my window in Mercer Residence, wondering if I’d made a terrible mistake in coming to law school – while the Bluebook sat silently, smugly beside me.
No sooner than ICWs became manageable, the next hurdle appeared: the Lawyering adjudication exercise. I was putting the finishing touches on a draft of my brief when I remembered: I had to complete citations for my sources too. I grimaced, made myself a strong cup of tea, and located my blue nemesis. Some hours later, my footnotes were complete – though unfortunately, they were a hodgepodge of every type of citation format with which I’d ever been familiar, Bluebook included. Quickly, my Lawyering TA realized I needed help in this battle.
My TA benevolently spent two hours helping me correct my (numerous) mistakes and teaching me how to use the Bluebook effectively. Suddenly, I felt as though I stood a chance at taming this blue beast.
Little did I know, that I would need to use every bit of this training for the upcoming Bluebook gauntlet: the writing competition.
Once final exams have ended, the writing competition begins. First, I downloaded a large packet of no less than twenty-five different cases, articles, statutes, etc., sources I would use to write my Comment, then two pages of footnotes to correct. Two pages? That’s not too bad, I thought.
Each footnote had numerous mistakes. And by “numerous”, I mean it took me two hours to complete each one. Two hours wading through each little footnote, with only the Bluebook as my guide.
Yet, on one of those late nights – who can say which one? – the Bluebook and I seemed to find some common ground. It was as though the Bluebook realized that, like it or not, we were in it for the long haul, so it might as well cooperate. I too was willing to let go of my animosity toward the sapphire softcover.
In the end, my hard work paid off, and I was selected to be a Staff Editor for NYU Law’s Journal of Legislation and Public Policy (hooray!) Among other things, a staff editor’s responsibilities involve a healthy amount of citation-checking. So, it looks like for my trusty Bluebook and me, the best is yet to come.