But you can conquer your fear. One step toward that might be understanding it better. To that end, check out David Ziff's thoughtful (and entertaining!) review essay, The Worst System of Citation Except for All the Others, forthcoming in the Journal of Legal Education.
One of the authors of The Complete Legal Writer blog gave Prof. Ziff's review a big thumbs up yesterday. She also insightfully observed:
I’d argue that the hardest part of learning legal citation is not mastering The Bluebook, not learning the italics and the abbreviations and the periods. Rather, it’s learning the judgment required to know what to cite, and when, and for what purpose. After all, as a system of communication that is built upon precedent, legal writing in the Anglo-American legal system depends on citation in ways that other fields do not and never will. Citation is integral to how our meaning gets made.Amen to that. Sure, you need to figure out the rules for citing law review articles, treatises, cases, and the rest. But that's just a matter of looking up the rules and following examples. The harder task if figuring out when to cite a law review article, a treatise, or a case.
For some help with The Bluebook, check out our guide, Bluebook 101.
Graphic by Mary Whisner