Everybody Hates The Bluebook: An Example

I’m taking a break from post-election thoughts to write about something much less upsetting: The Bluebook. I recently wrote a 27-page book review of the 20th Edition. Seriously. You should check it out.

In the review, I argue that many critiques of The Bluebook don’t critique the actual book. Rather, they seem to be upset about something altogether different, with The Bluebook just providing an easy target for their scorn.

An instant classic of the genre appeared today in Above The Law. An in-house lawyer offers a recommendation to future in-house lawyers: “Burn Your Bluebook.” Yikes! Look, I admit I’ve never worked as in-house counsel. And I wouldn’t be surprised if in-house lawyers rarely used The Bluebook. But the complaints in the article have almost nothing to do with The Bluebook. You could burn (or not burn) pretty much anything and you’d have just as much of an effect on the problems outlined in the article, since the author’s dispute is not with The Bluebook as a citation guide. Rather, the author seems to dislike providing any legal authority whatsoever in his memoranda. That’s fine! But that has nothing to do with The Bluebook, which contains rules to follow for when you do want to cite to legal authority in your memoranda. Continue reading

Judge Posner vs. Professor Dorf on Legal Writing

In the Autumn issue of the Journal of Legal Education, Professor Michael Dorf reviews Judge Richard Posner’s Divergent Paths. And Judge Posner responds. Judge Posner’s book, Professor Dorf’s review, and Judge Posner’s response are all worth reading in full, but I’d like to highlight a few parts that might be of particular interest to legal writing professors.

Judge Posner’s book is highly critical of legal writing professors, who he claims teach law students to write in a jargon-filled, Latin-peppered, opaque style. This was news to me, and contrary to the way I teach, the way my colleagues at UW School of Law teach, every legal writing text I’ve ever read, and every discussion I’ve had with other legal writing instructors. I’ve yet to meet someone who tells their students to end a memo with quod erat demonstrandum. Continue reading

Upcoming Event on King v. Burwell (in Seattle)

If you happen to be in Seattle (or will be on March 11) and you’re not already over-saturated with commentary, then please consider coming to the UW School of Law’s King v. Burwell panel discussion. Here’s the info:


 

King v. Burwell

Obamacare in the Supreme Court (Again)

Once again, the Supreme Court is set to examine the Affordable Care Act. After surviving a constitutional attack, the statute now faces a challenge based on its own text. Challengers claim that the plain language of the statute makes subsidies (a critical part of the ACA) unavailable on federally facilitated insurance exchanges. A panel of professors will discuss the case from the perspectives of health law, tax law, statutory interpretation, and administrative law.

Panel Presentation with Professors Sanford, Schumacher, Watts, and Ziff

Wednesday, March 11
12:30-1:20 p.m.
William H. Gates Hall, Room 119

Student sponsors: Federalist Society; American Constitution Society; Student Health Law Organization


The official flyer is here (suitable for framing)! Since we’ll have the benefit of already listening to and digesting the oral arguments, I expect this short program will provide an informative analysis from diverse doctrinal perspectives. For more in-depth analysis, feel free to check out my previous post under the King v. Burwell “tag”: https://ziffblog.wordpress.com/tag/king-v-burwell/

Law Students as Tea Cups: A Response to Conor Friedersdorf

The “sensitivity” of law students is getting a lot of press these days. Scott Greenfield wrote about it over at Simple Justice. Then Above the Law picked it up. I had my little post two days ago. And then today, Conor Friedersdorf offered this lengthy examination in The Atlantic.

Friedersdorf’s column does a nice job of making a couple of distinctions, which I’d like to expand on a bit. First, he acknowledges the possibility of rejecting a student complaint without unnecessarily disparaging the student. Here’s what he says: Continue reading

Teaching Facts in Law School (Inspired by Serial and All the President’s Men)

Don’t worry: no spoilers. (Okay, one little bitty spoiler a ways down, but you’ll get a second warning.)

A few weeks back, following the death of Ben Bradlee, I re-watched All the President’s Men. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t seen the movie since before I went to law school. Even by that time, it was an “old” movie, but it still holds up.

All Pres MenAnd of course, like everyone else, I’ve been listening to the Serial podcast, which wrapped up this morning. Listening to Serial and watching All the President’s Men got me thinking: investigation of facts is a critical aspect of good advocacy, and something law schools could probably do a better job of teaching. Continue reading

Law Reviews, Peer Review, and Cheese Knives

According to Professor Christopher Zorn of Empirical Legal Studies, law reviews are “terrible.” And he presents a list of grievances. I’ll get to those, and I’ve already discussed some of the recent “State of the Law Reviews” discussion here and here. But before the grievances, a more fundamental point: Professor Zorn doesn’t make clear his understanding of the purpose of law reviews so it’s impossible to judge whether law reviews are “terrible” or “great” at satisfying that purpose. You can’t call a cheese knife “terrible” just because you have a hard time cutting steak with it.

Let’s say the purposes of law reviews are to (1) get a bunch of ideas out into the universe, with a reliance on post-publication evaluation and sorting, (2) provide information that is useful to the bench, the bar, and scholars in some ratio, (3) have an article’s sourcing and arguments thoroughly checked by student editors, who effectively serve as volunteer student research assistants, and (4) give law students the opportunity to work closely with professors on current scholarship. On those fronts, I would say the law reviews are doing a decent job. But here are Five Reasons Law Reviews Are Terrible, according to Professor Zorn, with my comments: Continue reading

A Sur-Reply to the Replies to My Response to Adam Liptak’s NYT Article on Law Reviews

Yes, that title is supposed to be a joke.

Anyway, a few additional thoughts in response to folks who commented on my initial post defending law reviews from the students’ perspective.

Even with Student Editors, There Should Still Be Peer Review!

Lots of folks have pointed out that peer review would be a useful supplement to student editors. I didn’t mention this in the original post, because others had already discussed it elsewhere, but peer review does happen in legal scholarship. There are, of course, plenty of peer-reviewed journals. But even in the context of student-edited journals, Matt Bodie and Will Baude note that much of legal scholarship’s peer-reviewing happens after publication, when scholars, courts, and practitioners can evaluate a piece, ignore it, cite it, engage with it, criticize it, etc. What’s the problem with that?

Also, there is actually a good amount of pre-publication peer review. People complain about star footnotes—that little footnote after an author’s name thanking all the famous professors and friends who provided comments and edits on previous drafts. Sure, some of that might be an attempt at status-by-affiliation. But it’s also peer review! I’ve yet to see a star footnote that reads: “So, uh… nobody else in the field has read this yet. I just sort of read a bunch of cases and articles and these are my thoughts. I hope they’re not terribly obvious or wrong-headed.”

Blogs Are Better than Law Reviews!

Sure! Blogs are great! Continue reading