Bottomheavy: Legal Footnotes

Journal of Legal Education, Forthcoming

47 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2009 Last revised: 26 Dec 2014

See all articles by Joan A. Magat

Joan A. Magat

Duke University School of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2009


For decades, legal footnotes have been the deserving target of both ample criticism and self-mockery. Apart from their complaints as to footnotes’ mere existence, most critics draw a bead on the ballooning of footnote content. Some journal editors, aspiring to respond to this sound theme, hopefully inform their authors of a preference for “light footnoting.” But where does an author begin to trim, and what editor has the audacity to slash what the author (or her research assistant) has so laboriously compiled below the line? Changing our footnote habits is about benefits and costs. To gain the former, we must ante up. If criticism began the round of bidding, this article modestly raises the stakes, suggesting a rule of reason that might govern the author’s, the editor’s, and the reader’s expectations for footnotes. A gamble, perhaps, but one that might be worth taking.

Keywords: law journals, footnotes, citation

Suggested Citation

Magat, Joan A., Bottomheavy: Legal Footnotes (December 1, 2009). Journal of Legal Education, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Joan A. Magat (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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