I was trying out an app for the bookmarking service Pinboard recently and happened upon this note on legal citation that I’d saved a few years back. This topic comes up periodically on Slaw including Louis Mirando‘s great post on the 8th edition of the McGill Guide from 2014.
I’d completely forgotten about this note and thought it would be interesting to share as we start another new school …
In the introduction to Frank G. Bennett‘s 2013 book on Mulitlingual Zotero (MLZ), “Citations: Out of the Box” http://citationstylist.org/public/mlzbook.pdf* Lawrence Lessig said the following: “… lawyers tolerate the most ridiculous waste, because no one within the law seems tasked with the job of eliminating it.”
And legal citation via The Bluebook is the example Lessig uses:
“Legal citation is a perfect instance of this more general ﬂaw. The dominant citation manual, The Bluebook, is a brilliant embarrassment. Hundreds of pages long, with thousands of abbreviations, and convoluted rules specifying, among other things, typeface variations — the system seems designed to punish paralegals, or ﬁrst year associates. Of course, it was not designed with those purposes. And it is maintained by smart and decent souls aiming to do the best they can. But whatever its virtues when invented, the system is an embarrassment in the 21st century. As anyone remotely familiar with the capabilities of modern information technology recognizes, the idea that humans spin brain cycles conforming to these rules is simply absurd. In 1974, things may have been different. In the days before computers, a complex reference manual may have made sense. But everything these citation manuals do computers could do better. The human brain was not invented/evolved/created (you pick) to waste its time with silliness like this.”
So what do you think? Is a “complex reference manual” for legal citation a wasted effort? Are we ready to move on and let the “capabilities of modern information technology” take care of this for us?
* many thanks to the Internet Archive for capturing this now defunct link!