The Bluebook’s Secret History!

Even in Australia one can feel the dread reach of the Bluebook.  For those interested in its history, a new article entitled “The Secret History of the Bluebook” reveals all!  Written by two members of Yale Law School, Fred R. Shapiro & Julie Graves Krishnaswami, it is forthcoming at Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 4, 2016.  It can also be found here at SSRN.

The SSRN abstract (noting  HLS’ early monopolization of the royalties (nothing about HLS would surprise me!) as well as noting the succinct early versions of one to fifteen pages compared to today’s grotesque length):

“The Bluebook, or Uniform System of Citation as it was formerly titled, has long been a significant component of American legal culture. The standard account of the origins of the Bluebook, deriving directly from statements made by longtime Harvard Law School Dean and later Solicitor General of the United States Erwin N. Griswold, maintains that the citation manual originated at the Harvard Law Review in the 1920s and was created or adapted by Dean Griswold himself. This account is wildly erroneous, as proven by intensive research we conducted in the archives of Harvard and Yale. In fact, the Bluebook grew out of precursor manuals at Yale Law School, apparently inspired by a legal scholar even more important than Griswold, namely Karl N. Llewellyn. The “uniform citations” movement that began at Yale was actually at first opposed by Harvard.

In his most extreme misstatement, Griswold asserted that a collaborative decision was made in the 1920s by Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, and University of Pennsylvania Law Review to share the revenues from publishing the Bluebook (eventually amounting to millions of dollars) among the four journals. There is indeed now four-way revenue-sharing, but it did not commence until the 1970s, and then only after a revolt of the three “junior partners” against Harvard Law Review’s complete monopolization of Bluebook income for half a century, a revolt initiated by Joan Wexler of the Yale Law Journal.

Some readers may question whether originating the hyper-complicated Bluebook should be a source of pride for Yale. Our response is that, although the Bluebook version that subsequently developed under the leadership of Harvard Law Review currently consists of 582 pages, the two earliest Yale precursors of the Bluebook were, respectively, one page and fifteen pages long.”

Colin Picker

Teaching the History of Lawyering

Reposting from the Legal History Blog an interesting discussion on teaching the history of lawyering  “Who Do We Think We Are?: A History of Lawyering” by Bernard Hibbits of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  Let me provide an extract, as he talks about how he put a course on the history of lawyering together:

“. . . I began to find lawyers in places and positions where I didn’t really expect to find them, and I began to rethink the very idea of offering a “professional” history of lawyering, slowly inclining towards a broader “cultural” history of lawyering that would overtly regard lawyers as having a truly fundamental role in the development of American society in particular, from explorers to investors to orators to revolutionaries to framers to politicians to poets to evangelists to soldiers to editors to entrepreneurs to CEOs to activists and so on, and on, and on. Here, right before me, were individuals who as a class could truly be described (pace Gramsci) as the “organic intellectuals” of the American experience (arguably much more so than members of any other professional or occupational group), but about whom we had told our law students little or nothing.

How crazy is that? Right now, when we want to inspire our law students, raise their horizons, broaden their minds, and prepare them (by necessity) for a world beyond the Scylla of BigLaw on the one hand and the Charybdis of solo practice on the other, shouldn’t we be telling them about these people, their successes and their failures, their strengths and their weaknesses, their dreams and their delusions? This is no celebratory “lawyers’ history” that I’m proposing, but rather a living, breathing, warts-and-all history of lawyering – a history of lawyers as people whose examples and actions, for good or ill, can be offered to our students. What do they have to gain from all this? Two things at least: first, a better, more accurate and more ambitious sense of themselves and their own potential as lawyers, and second, a humility that comes from knowing that they are not the first generation of lawyers to strive, to struggle, to succeed and even sometimes to fail. . . .”

Professor Hibbitts’s post will apparently be the first of a series by him on the history of lawyering course at that blog running this month.

By Colin B. Picker