A modest proposal to wean Law Reviews off of the Bluebook.

April 6th, 2011

I don’t like the Bluebook (see here and here). It is an absolute waste of time that produces a negligible marginal benefit for the excessive amount of time it takes to make all footnotes conform to this unruly code.

I’m not alone in hating on the Bluebook. Judge Posner, a leading opponent of the Bluebook, recently published an article in the Yale Law Journal attacking it. Plus, with the permission of the editors, the footnotes did not conform to the Blueblook.

I have asked the editors not to make my citations conform to The Bluebook, and they have graciously consented.

Posner’s request gave me an idea.

I have a simple proposal that just may wean Law Reviews off of this insidious text.

  1. Set aside a single issue of a journal dedicated to articles that are not bluebooked. Now, I am not suggesting that Editors should accept author’s footnotes at face value. No. The footnotes should be checked to make sure they are supported by the cited source, and there is no plagiarism. What need not happen is the asinine conforming of the footnotes to the 511 pages of the 19th Edition of the Bluebook. Perhaps use the Maroon Book, as does the University of Chicago Law Review (only 85 pages!).
  2. Recruit a set of leading academics who hate the bluebook to publish in your bluebook free edition. Judge Posner is not alone. I’m sure that there are many others, perhaps those scarred by the Law Review bluebooking process (myself included) who would love to stick it to the man, so to speak. Such a symbolic gesture would attract some brilliant minds who hate stupid bureaucracies.
  3. Record the amount of time it takes to produce the bluebook-free issue of the journal. Break that time down based on the different members of the editing staff. Compare that to the amount of time it takes to produce a bluebooked issue.
  4. With these immense time savings in hand, put the matter to a vote. Only the most recalcitrant clinger-ons will insist the Bluebook is still superior. Any rational board should recognize that its cool to ditch the bluebook.

If one enterprising editorial board accepts this plan, others will follow. Professors hate bluebooking. If a journal can advertise that they do not require painstakingly accurate citations, that will create a comparative advantage, and entice submissions to that journal. Soon market forces will come into play. The more journals switch off the bluebook, others will join. Death by a thousand cuts, to use the parlance of the Roberts Court.

Perhaps this will create pressure on the editors of the Bluebook to simplify that mess.

What do you think? Would this work? Are there any enterprising journals out there willing to heed my call? I will certainly submit one of my future articles to your journal.