The Subtext of Citation: Helping First-Year Law Students Understand the Substance of Legal Citation
20 No. 1 Perspectives: Teaching Legal Res. & Writing 26 (2011)
6 Pages Posted: 13 May 2016 Last revised: 14 May 2016
Date Written: 2011
Given the many important concepts that legal writing instructors must cover in the first-year curriculum, it is understandable that we commonly focus on the more technical aspects of citation, such as how to cite properly and when to include a citation. While students strive to master The Bluebook's technical rules for citing to legal authority in support of their legal analysis, the substantive information that citations convey may be overlooked or underemphasized. In fact, legal citations convey critical substantive information to the law-trained reader beyond simple support for a legal proposition. They can communicate the longevity of a particular proposition in a given jurisdiction, the scope and availability of authority in support of a particular legal argument, and the student's understanding of the weight of different authorities. Teaching students to recognize the many roles that citations play in crafting a legal argument can help enhance the overall quality of their work product, both in their legal writing courses and in their future careers. This article provides a series of annotated citations designed to illustrate the substantive importance of legal citation, beyond simple support for a proposition.
Keywords: Bluebook, legal citation, legal writing
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