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Interdisciplinarity, Leiter and the Bluebook

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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13 Responses

  1. Brian says:

    My impression is that over the last decade or so there has been a marked tendency towards listing all the author names rather than using the et al. device–but it is true that this approach is not followed consistently.

  2. Marty Lederman says:

    Do I understand this correctly?: You’d like the Bluebook rule to be that one should cite *all* authors of a multi-authored work, rather than using “et al.”? And to do so for purposes of upping someone’s Leiter citation counts?

    Tongue-in-cheek, right?

    Just in case it’s not: The purpose of any Bluebook rule should be to allow the reader to (i) understand the basis for the author’s assertions; and (ii) to permit the reader to find the sources easily. Not to be a gauge of “impact.”

    I’m actually curious: Does anyone think that citation rankings provide evidence of anything of value that is not otherwise widely known? Do they actually have some purchase, such as affecting hiring decisions? And if so, haven’t we gone off the rails just a bit here?

  3. LR editor says:

    From the law review editor perspective:

    I tend to use et al. only when the list of authors is prohibitively long for a short form citation. So, for instance, this piece recently published by the Northwestern University Law Review has four authors. Short form citation for this piece will therefore read, for example: See Epstein, Martin, Quinn, & Segal, supra at [xx], at [xxxx]. That’s a long short form citation, and here, the authors’ names are not long. My preference, in almost every instance, is to make the citation information easier to locate in short citations, and it’s difficult to skim a string of authors’ names that long and quickly grasp that it’s a short citation rather than something else.

    It’s worth, noting, too, that unless an author points it out, it can be difficult to know when leaving all authors’ names in is “particularly relevant.” The author, being the subject matter expert, as it were, would certainly know but I, as an editor, might not. In such cases, I would rely on an author to reject my change to “et al.”

  4. Dave Hoffman says:

    Marty,

    I’m sorry to have to disagree. The goal of the citation rule should be to accurately reflect the sources the author is relying on. If someone is listed as an author on a piece, she deserves the “credit” of being cited to – not only for ranking purposes (which you may think trivial, but I guess you’ve the luxury to) but more generally because a reader of footnotes should be able to understand who wrote an source so she can fit that source within an intellectual tradition. The et al. rule is bad especially because the countervailing argument is merely space, which is a very hard argument to defend in a 25,000 word article. The rule as given punishes collaboration by making its practitioners vanish from the pages of the law reviews. In the community I write in, collaboration is the future.

    I’m not going to wade into the tarpit of the usefulness of citation ranking. But if they are going to exist, let them at least measure real citations, not first author status.

  5. Brian says:

    Marty asks: “Does anyone think that citation rankings provide evidence of anything of value that is not otherwise widely known?” Marty, why didn’t you tell me you knew how the results were going to come out, this would have saved my RA a lot of time!!!

  6. Marty Lederman says:

    Yes, imagine your shock and surprise when you learned that, for example, the leaders in CONLAW citations were Sunstein/Tribe/Chemerinsky/Eskridge/Tushnet/Sullivan /Ackerman/ Amar / Farber / Fallon / Post / Frickey/ Levinson / Fiss / Balkin / Dorf / Michelman / Redish / Volokh / Kramer!

    Who woulda thunk it? Stop the presses!

    I concede this much: Perhaps such rankings might on very rare occasions reveal that someone who doesn’t get a lot of attention in water-cooler discussions is in fact being cited a lot. In other words, scholars treat that person’s work as “influential” in the sense of citing it often, but don’t talk much about that person otherwise — not favorably, anyway. OK, perhaps once in a blue moon. And so if you’re thinking of hiring that person, perhaps you would check to see whether there’s more to their scholarship than you might otherwise have thought. You might, that is to say, check to see *why* they’re piling up the cite-counts.

    Yes, I can imagine that happening. On very rare occasion. And even more rarely, it might lead you to think differently about one writer or another. But that will be the very unusual exception. Can you think of such a case, Brian? Is there anyone, for instance, on the Law & Philosophy list that you now think more highly of — or in even in a different light — because of their high cite-count?

  7. Brian says:

    Gee, Marty, I thought there were several surprises on the constitutional law list, but in the interest of discretion, I won’t say more. Specialists, I’m sure, have their own views about the merits in each case, as do I in the case of Law and Philosophy. For those not working in a particular field, the lists provide some information and perspective, even if it doesn’t stop the presses.

  8. Other LR editor says:

    We’ll use all of your names in the citation if you promise to cite to pieces published in our Law Review at least a few times in your article. We’ve got rankings to worry about too, you know.

  9. Paul Gowder says:

    Much simpler solution: get rid of the bluebook.

    I’d really like to know who has an incentive to keep the bluebook going. People being cited don’t, for reasons noted. People publishing contemporary pieces don’t, because it’s insanely hellish to comply with all the idiotic rules about italicizing commas, etc. Mutatis mutandis to law review editors. Readers — well, there are none, so there’s hardly a concern there.

    One wonders whether the bluebook’s persistence is just a silly barrier to entry. Or, as a werewolf of my acquaintaince suggests, just a cultural fetish for arcane rules.

  10. Paul Gowder says:

    Much simpler solution: get rid of the bluebook.

    I’d really like to know who has an incentive to keep the bluebook going. People being cited don’t, for reasons noted. People publishing contemporary pieces don’t, because it’s insanely hellish to comply with all the idiotic rules about italicizing commas, etc. Mutatis mutandis to law review editors. Readers — well, there are none, so there’s hardly a concern there.

    One wonders whether the bluebook’s persistence is just a silly barrier to entry. Or, as a werewolf of my acquaintaince suggests, just a cultural fetish for arcane rules.

  11. Reader of Articles says:

    Mr. Gowder,

    What, pray tell, do you suggest as a replacement for the Bluebook? Anarchy in citations?

    I’ll be the first to admit that the Bluebook is overly complicated and perhaps places a little too much emphasis on form rather than function. And in areas where the Bluebook is weak, it is VERY weak.

    That having been said, as there are rules of grammar, there are rules of citation. The rules are necessarily complex because they must be complete and also because of their audience: editors of law reviews and other legal publications, most of whom are sticklers for exactness.

    The virtue of the Bluebook is that, for citations done right, it is very easy for the reader to know exactly what the citation refers to and where to find that piece. It may make the job of the legal writer more difficult, but it certainly makes the job of the legal researcher easier, and there is much more research than writing going on in this (or any) field.

  12. Reader of Articles writes: “The virtue of the Bluebook is that, for citations done right, it is very easy for the reader to know exactly what the citation refers to and where to find that piece.”

    Not always so. Bluebook citations often omit helpful information, such as the original publication dates for books (the Bluebook only requires the publication date of the edition being cited).

    The goal of citation should be to provide the most useful information to the reader, but the Bluebook often devolves into following rules for rules’ sake.

    Without the Bluebook, would “anarchy” reign? Not at all. So long as citations contain sufficient information and are uniform throughout, that is fine. For example, citations in books are much less rule-bound than the Bluebook; they are still consistent and helpful, but far less anal. Hundreds of pages of rules aren’t needed.

    You also write that the audience really cares about the Bluebook. Not in my experience. Law review editors care, but the primary readers of law review articles (law professors) don’t care much about the Bluebook. They want the cites to be useful, but they are not “sticklers for exactness.” Many despise many rules in the Bluebook, such as excessive pin citing for unimportant points in cases, needless parentheticals, etc.

    To paraphrase Grant Gilmore: “In Heaven, there will be no Bluebook, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. In Hell, there will be nothing but the Bluebook, and it will be meticulously observed.”