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The Law Clerk Chronicles – Citation Pendantry

By December 9, 2003Uncategorized

Judge Richard Posner used the word hypertrophy to describe the obsession that the editors of the Bluebook have with citation form. Even so, most law review students proudly obsess about citation form, and law review editors are especially fond of citation pendantry.

I was the Managing Editor on my school’s law review, which is the dream job for people who obsess about citation form. My reign represented a dark period since I didn’t really “get” the whole obsession about citation. My attitude was that we should cite things consistently, and obviously provide enough information so that the source could be located and verified. I adhered to the Bluebook (do otherwise would have been cause for my impeachment), but I had trouble understanding why it was imperative to have a space between the “So.” and the “2d” in the following citation: 123 So. 2d 456.

Anyway, why am I mentioning this? Because I have found that, in the practice of law, I still care more than I want to about citation format. Not because I want to, but because I know that there are judicial clerks who make judgments about my lawyerly abilities based on whether my citations are in proper format. It’s sort of silly, but that’s the way it is. I worry more about my writing than my citations, but I don’t obsess about my writing either. But, saying that reminds me of a true story about a lawyer I know who was particularly obsessive about his legal writing.

This lawyer would forbid the associates who worked with him to draft the usual certificate of service, which is to say the one that says “I certify that I have served all counsel of record.” He admonished associates that such a certificate constituted a serious misrepresentation since it suggested that you had served yourself (since you were also “cousel of record”) when in fact you hadn’t. Once in the flurry of a last minute filing, a young associate realized that he had used the forbidden language in a pleading that had been sent out. Thinking quickly, he had his secretary create a service letter to himself and sent it out to be mailed immediately.

I’m sure it made a critical difference in the outcome of the case.


P.S. If you appreciate my observations, you might want to join my inner circle.

One Comment

  • Beldar says:

    The editors of volume 57 of the Texas Law Review, myself among them, once spent the better part of a half hour in passionate debate over whether the second comma in a “see, e.g.,” cite ought to be italicized.

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