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Legal Writing

What is the Bluebook?

The Bluebook, formally titled The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, is the style manual for citing to legal documents within the United States.  The Bluebook is compiled by the editors of the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and The Yale Law Journal.

The Law Library has 4 copies of the current edition on reserve (and several of the previous edition in the Law Library Stacks).  These can be checked out for in-library use at the Circulation Desk. 


ALWD Guide to Legal Citation (Carolyn V. Williams, 2021)
This resource from a legal writing professor and the Association of Legal Writing Directors, an association of legal writing instructors, focuses its attention on legal citation for legal practice, codifying the most common legal citation rules. It also notes differences in the rules of academic citation, with clear visual signals to prevent confusion. It includes guidelines for citing sources not specifically addressed in the rules.

Understanding and Mastering The Bluebook (Linda J. Barris, 2020)
This instruction manual for using the Bluebook lays out the basic rules of legal citation. It does not focus attention on the many exceptions to Bluebook rules or less common rules. It helps readers cite to cases, statutes, constitutions, regulations, procedural and court rules, secondary sources, and litigation documents. 

User's Guide to The Bluebook (Alan L. Dworsky, 2021)
This pamphlet, revised for the 21st Edition of The Bluebook, provides plain language interpretations of citation rules for practitioners (from the Bluepages) such as when and when not to underline words. It provides a brief overview of the rules in general, and goes into depth on commonly cited documents such as cases and statutes.

Citation Software & Websites

Below are resources designed to help you understand and format Bluebook citations. However, keep in mind that the Bluebook can confuse even the most sophisticated software.  For information on PowerNotes, the ASU-licensed citation-management and note-taking software, please see the PowerNotes LibGuide.

In Westlaw you can simply highlight text with your cursor and a small menu will pop-up allowing you to “copy with reference” to add the highlighted portion and a citation to your clipboard.  Westlaw allows you to export different formats, so be sure to select the correct option.

Westlaw’s Drafting Assistant allows the user to upload a document (.pdf, .docx, .rtf) and then an algorithm will scan the document and evaluate the references.  The user is then prompted to accept or deny suggested improvements to each citation (similar to Track Changes in MS Word).  Note: You can select local court rules when you use this software.

Lexis  enables users to highlight and copy-paste text with a citation (also in different formats like Westlaw).  In addition, Lexis has a module called the Interactive Citation Workstation which allows you to practice Bluebook citation for many resources.

Lexis Brief Analysis invites users to upload their files and it extracts the key legal concepts that the documents address, makes recommendations for additional authority, identifies similar documents, and analyzes the citation history of all cited authority.

Shepard’s Brief Check functions similar to Westlaw’s Drafting Assistant, except it leads the user through a series of prompts and then delivers the user a report of the types of errors found.

Lexis MS Office Plugin (YouTube video tutorial) is an add-on for MS Word that allows integration of certain portions of the Lexis platform directly into MS Word.  You will have to download a (200MB) desktop app and log in using your Lexis credentials.

Citeus Legalus
Citeus Legalus is a free online tool allowing users to input individual pieces of information and then generating a citation. Other, similar programs limit the number of citations or require payment. 

Cornell’s Legal Information Institute
If you’re looking for a quick reference guide to legal citations, Cornell’s Legal Information Institute has a useful summary guide.

Law Reviews and Journals

Citation Literacy (Alexa Z. Chew, Arkansas Law Review, 2018)
Citations in legal documents convey information about the cited authority, such as the degree of influence it has over subsequent cases. But many law students receive insufficient instruction in how to read these important components, as citation sentences tend to be excised from all but a small part of their first-year writing courses.

Shedding the Uniform: Beyond A “Uniform System of Citation” to a More Efficient Fit (Susie Salmon, Marquette Law Review, 2016)
Technology promises a new, more cost-effective alternative to the current prevailing citation systems, which appear to be moving toward obsolescence. Schools, lawyers, and courts should embrace time- and cost-saving online resources that provide clear indications of the source of legal matters and their weight.