Seeking for Righteousness

The Personal Blog of Kaimi Wenger

Law Review Submission and Bluebooking

Professor Bainbridge asks lightheartedly whether one should deliberately mis-bluebook law review submissions. My answer in a word: No.

The more detailed answer is as follows:

(First, let me note that I cannot claim to speak for Yale or Harvard, which Bainbridge alludes to in the post. However, I was an Articles Editor at Columbia just two years ago. Columbia is situated just outside the Yale-Harvard circle. Depending on who’s doing the counting, Columbia is probably in a group which includes Stanford and Chicago. This group is below Yale-Harvard, and is above the next tier, which may include NYU, Michigan, Penn, and maybe Cal and/or Virginia).

To be picked up at Columbia, a piece needs to be accepted by supermajority vote of the articles committee. I believe that all or nearly all top journals use similar committee or group votes to decide on articles. And that means satisfying several different editors’ criteria. Many Articles Editors will think that bluebooking is a waste of time. (This is why they are Articles Editors, not Managing Editors). However, in any given committee, there are likely to be one or more members who think that good bluebooking is important. And authors should avoid unnecessarily antagonizing these members.

The strategy of not antagonizing members unnecessarily is crucial because of committee dynamics. Almost every article goes into committee with one or more members already against it in some way: They may think that the subject matter is not important; they may dislike the conclusion; they may think it is poorly written; they may think that this particular slot should be reserved for another article. The article will also have supporters, if it makes it into committee. That is, in most cases, a piece has at least one advocate and at least one critic at the meeting.

Committee meetings consist largely of editors either going to bat for pieces they like, or critiquing pieces they don’t like, and trying to bring the other editors into line. The key votes are the on-the-fence members, the O’Connors and Kennedys of the vote, the ones whose opinions will determine the article’s fate. And one or more of these people may be bluebook-conscious AE’s. Authors should never give their critic(s) a stupid, easily-fixable opening to attack a piece by doing bad bluebooking.

It’s simple: Do the bluebooking; make the critic(s) take you on on the merits, and if your piece is written well, and your advocate(s) is/are persuasive, you may get in the door.


December 10, 2003 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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