Basic Tools and Concepts


Several general systems of legal citation exist as well as specific systems for each state and other jurisdictions. Despite the many systems, there is a strong consistency among them for general citation rules for practice related documents. The two most well-known general systems of citation are the Bluebook and the ALWD citation manual. The Bluebook is the most well established, having been in existence for several decades, while ALWD is only about 5 years old. UNM uses ALWD for its basic citation teaching tool.

Bluebook vs. ALWD

The Bluebook really contains two citation systems: one for practice related documents (e.g. briefs and memos) and one for scholarly writing. ALWD contains one system, used for all legal writing. ALWD and Bluebook agree on citation format for practice related documents. The differences between Bluebook and ALWD appear in the context of scholarly writing. Of the 17 differences, the only one of real significance is the requirement of Bluebook for different type styles in footnotes. All scholarly publications do not use the Bluebook format. Many use ALWD, as do many moot court competitions, including Jessup. Some courts, including some federal courts, now require use of ALWD.

Legal Analysis and Communication courses teach practice related writing and thus require practice related citation form. While this is consistent between Bluebook and ALWD, most students learn this proper citation better from ALWD than Bluebook; that is, ALWD is a better teaching tool. Once students understand how to use a citation manual, the skill is transferable to any other manual they might be required to use in the future (not unlike the ability to read different statutory and code compilations). ALWD teaches students the most common format for practice related writing, a format that is consistent with the Bluebook. Both books also refer to and note that when writing practice related documents, authors must additionally conform to local practice/citation rules. Thus, for example, New Mexico requires vendor neutral format. In addition to basic citation rules, authors must always conform to local variations.

In the real world, the word “bluebook” is often used as a synonym for “proper citation.” Thus, when students are asked if they know how to bluebook, they should not assume that the answer is no. Indeed, since switching to ALWD in LRRW, students understanding of and ability to create proper citations is far better than when the Bluebook was used as the teaching tool. Students should not think that just because we do not require that they purchase a Bluebook that they do not understand citation or cannot properly cite. Indeed, because the Bluebook is revised every couple of years, any specialized Bluebook training received in the first year of law school will very likely be outdated before they begin practice. Training with ALWD well prepares students to handle citation in practice related documents.