The ALWD Citation Manual: A Professional Citation System for the Law*

Steven D. Jamar fn1
© 2000 Steven D. Jamar - license to reproduce and distribute is granted 

About three years ago, the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD (variously pronounced "All Wood" or "Al Wid" (I prefer the former)), an organization of more than 200 members representing approximately 150 law schools, undertook the ambitious project of developing and publishing a new legal citation manual. In early 2000 the years of work came to fruition when the ALWD Citation Manual fn2 was published by Aspen Law & Business, a leading publisher of legal writing texts. This book, prepared by professionals for professionals, will, I believe, eventually displace The Bluebook.fn3

ALWD Citation Manual and the Bluebook

One of the guiding ideas for the new manual was that it would be, for the most part, a restatement of the rules of citation based on the citation form actually used by experts. As a result of this conservative approach, citation done in the ALWD format will be familiar to practitioners and scholars alike. As shown in the accompanying table of sample citations, there are a number of small changes, but the citations will be instantly understood by any lawyer who learned any one (or more) of the 16 different versions of citation promulgated by the 16 different editions of The Bluebook.fn4

Sample Citationsfn5

 ALWD Format
 Bluebook Format
(using court document formats)

Brown v. Bd. of Educ., 349 U.S. 294, 297 (1955).

Brown v. Board of Educ., 349 U.S. 294, 297 (1955).

 18 U.S.C. § 1965 (1994).

 18 U.S.C. § 1965 (1994).

Michael J. Gerhardt, The Federal Impeachment Process: A Constitutional and Historical Analysis 19 (Princeton U. Press 1996).

Michael J. Gerhardt, The Federal Impeachment Process: A Constitutional and Historical Analysis 19 (1996).

L. Ray Patterson, Legal Ethics and the Lawyer’s Duty of Loyalty, 29 Emory L.J. 909, 915 (1980).

L. Ray Patterson, Legal Ethics and the Lawyer’s Duty of Loyalty, 29 Emory L.J. 909, 915 (1980).

Hope Viner Samborn, Navigating Murky Waters, 85 A.B.A. J. 28 (July 1998)

Hope Viner Samborn, Navigating Murky Waters, A.B.A. J. , July 1998, at 28.

Because the learning (and unlearning) to be done is minimal, it will be easy to adapt to either system and to move between them. Those who know The Bluebook will be able to adapt to the ALWD Citation Manual easily; those who learn the ALWD Citation Manual will be able to conform ALWD-compliant work to Bluebook requirements with relatively little additional specialized learning, especially for practitioner documents. Tables like the one above highlighting the changes will help make the transition even easier than the transition from one edition of The Bluebook to another has been in the past.

A Teaching Tool

The ALWD Citation Manual is not merely a reference book; it is also a teaching book. The attention paid to making the book much easier to teach and learn from will make it particularly attractive to those who teach legal citation. Key features furthering this aim are the explicit articulation of a general rule of citation, numerous user-friendly examples of citations of each type of work, and design features that facilitate ease of reading and parsing rules. The book features two color printing; "Sidebars" to explain matters related to citation that are not rules per se; and "Fast Formats," a collection of pages illustrating proper citation form for most types of works. This latter feature will be very useful for someone who knows the citation forms already but needs to double-check some detail. These fast formats will also provide students and teachers with a rich source of examples of the application of the rules. Teaching of citation using local rules should be made easier by the extensive coverage of state sources. In addition, a website will be maintained to provide answers to frequently asked questions.

Goals and Features of ALWD Citation Manual

ALWD had a number of aims in creating this citation manual: to simplify some of the rules, to reduce inconsistencies, to make the rules responsive to the needs of lawyers as well as scholars, and, over the long term, to provide stability and uniformity of citation rules.

Among the simplifications, two stand out most prominently. First, how you cite a source does not depend on where you cite it. Gone are the arcane differences that depended upon whether the case was cited in a brief to the court, in a footnote to the text in an academic journal, or in the text proper of a law review article. The citation form in each setting is now the same. The second major simplification is the elimination of the use of small caps in citations. There are now only two type styles: italics and regular type. If the portion of the cite is not in italics (such as signals and titles), then it is to be in regular type. The ALWD Citation Manual contains a simple list of what to put in italics; everything not on the list is to be in regular type.

The aim of reducing inconsistencies was largely accomplished. As noted, the inconsistency resulting from requiring different citation rules for citing sources in different types of legal documents has been eliminated. Another example is that the form for citing consecutively paginated journals and non-consecutively paginated journals is now the same. Furthermore, abbreviations for journals are more consistent with each other and differences in abbreviations across categories (e.g., case titles, journal names) have, in general, been reduced.

Providing stability and uniformity of citation over the long term is important so that the scholars of tomorrow can understand the citations of today. Stability of citation form will also mean that what law students learn today will not be obsolete five years out of school. These goals, seemingly inherent in the very underpinnings of a system of citation, do not appear to have been sufficiently appreciated by the publishers of The Bluebook. Even as these goals were paid lipservice--the subtitle of The Bluebook is "A Uniform System of Citation" after all--the achievement of both stability and uniformity has been frustrated by frequent changes in citation form wrought by the student publishers of The Bluebook over the years.

One of the main forces giving impetus to the creation of a professionally crafted manual was, ironically, the 16th edition of The Bluebook itself. As with prior editions, the editors did not content themselves with simply accounting for new technologies and updating statutory numbering schemes and journal lists. Instead, they, as had students before them, changed the meaning of citation signals, in particular the meaning of "see," probably the most commonly used and important signal. Although, in the large scheme of things, this is truly a tempest in a teapot, the problems created by the changes in the 16th edition led directly to an AALS plenary resolution against the Bluebook’s change of the meaning of see.fn6 Over the years the meaning of accord, cf., but see, and other signals has been changed so often that someone reading an article today from a previous decade can not confidently interpret the extent to which the cited authority supports the material in the text. The meaning of the signals simply is not clear.

Frustrations with these problems were compounded by other problems--prepayment requirements, shipping delays, appearance, quality, teachability, and the like. Delayed shipment adversely affects LRW professionals and others who teach citation, as well as students who need to learn and use proper legal citation form. Problems with payment and shipping affect bookstores and students. The design of The Bluebook made it difficult to teach from, to learn from, and to use even after it had been learned. This difficulty of use adversely affects all lawyers and law students. These problems should be dramatically reduced and in some cases nearly eliminated (e.g., availability and shipping and bookstore prepayment problems) because the ALWD Citation Manual is being published by a reputable law book publisher with a large presence in the industry rather than by a group of law journal editors.

Brief History of ALWD Citation Manual

Faced with these frustrations, pressure was building to do something about them. One of the groups most directly and regularly affected by problems with The Bluebook--those charged with teaching citation, LRW professionals--decided to act.

The idea of ALWD publishing a professional citation manual appears to have been first voiced in a conversation between Richard K. Neumann, Jr., and Jan M. Levine at the AALS conference in Washington, D.C., in January 1997. The idea was then brought before the Board of Directors of the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) in July 1997 and the Board approved the project. For the next two years a number of people invested a significant amount of time and personal energy into working on early drafts of the book (particularly the lead author, Darby Dickerson of Stetson University College of Law), shopping for a publisher (particularly Richard Neumann, Jr.), and doing initial marketing and investigative work on the approach that should be taken to the book (including, among others, Jan M. Levine and me in my capacity at the time as president of ALWD’s sister organization, the Legal Writing Institute).

ALWD selected Professor Dickerson as the lead author because she is the leading expert on legal citation in the country.fn7 In working on the new guide, she consulted dozens of published sources, including style guides in other disciplines, and she sought feedback from LRW professionals. Not incidentally, she and others involved in the project kept track of the initiative of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) to create a vendor-neutral approach to citation.fn8 In summer 1999 the ALWD Board of Directors created a Citation Manual Oversight Committee to review the work as it moved to completion and to provide feedback to Darby Dickerson. The Committee considered a variety of issues, including the direction the manual should take (i.e., a restatement of legal citation or a radical reform of it), the balance between its use as a reference book and an instructional book, how the book should be organized, and, in a few instances, particular citation form issues.


The ALWD Citation Manual is a welcome step forward. Nonetheless, there remain areas which need work. Foremost among these is the problem of integrating traditional citation rules which cover both older as well as current materials with the forward-looking universal, vendor-neutral, document-centered citation forms like those developed by AALL. Another significant problem to address is the citation of foreign and international materials in a sensible, uniform way. ALWD is already at work on these issues. As was done for each part of the book at each step along the way, experts in these fields are being consulted so that whatever rules are adopted will be sensible, workable, and durable.

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*This article was originally published as The ALWD Citation Manual -- A Professional Citation System for the Law, 8 Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing 65 (West Group, Winter 2000).

1. Steven D. Jamar is Professor of Law and Director of the Legal Research and Writing Program at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. He is Co-Chair of the ALWD Citation Manual Oversight Committee. I wish to thank my colleagues for their extremely prompt and helpful comments and suggestions for this piece: Darby Dickerson, Jan M. Levine, Susan P. Liemer, and Pamela Lysaght. Responsibility for any errors that remain after their remarkably prompt and insightful help is solely my own. I can be contacted at

2. Darby Dickerson and Ass'n of Legal Writing Directors, ALWD Citation Manual (Aspen Publishing 2000).

3. The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (16th ed. 1996).

4. The first edition of what is now the Bluebook was published by the Harvard Law Review Association in 1926 under the title A Uniform System of Citation: Abbreviations and Form of Citation. Unfortunately, over the succeeding years the Bluebook undermined the very standardization it sought to impose on legal citation by changing fundamental aspects of citation (such as the meaning of signals like "see") with each new edition. See infra note 6 and accompanying text.

5. This table was provided by Darby Dickerson, lead author of the ALWD Citation Manual.

6. See A. Darby Dickerson, Seeing Blue: Ten Notable Changes in the New Bluebook, 6 Scribes J. Legal Writing 75 (1996-97) (detailing the AALS action on this matter).

7. See, e.g., A. Darby Dickerson, An Un-Uniform System of Citation: Surviving with the New Bluebook (Including Compendia of State and Federal Court Rules Concerning Citation Form), 26 Stetson L. Rev. 53 (1996); Dickerson, supra note 6.

8. ALWD considers the AALL approach to be complementary to its project. ALWD was seeking to create more of a restatement of legal citation in a way that would work for all current and future sources, including universal citation or vendor-neutral citation proposals such as that of AALL. Indeed, the ALWD Citation Manual notes that AALL citation forms are permissible forms, especially for parallel cites. As the AALL proposal catches on, the ALWD Manual will probably continue to be adapted to it. See Paul George and Marcia J. Koslov, Introducing the AALL Uniform Citation Guide, 8 Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing 60 (West Group, Winter 2000) [sic "Uniform" should have been "Universal"].

9. The Co-Chairs of this committee are Steven D. Jamar and Amy E. Sloan. Other committee members include: Colleen M. Barger, Mary Beth Beazley, Maria Ciampi, Eric B. Easton, Jan M. Levine, Ruth Ann McKinney, Richard K. Neumann, Craig T. Smith, Marilyn Walter, Kathleen E. Vinson, and Ursula Weigold.

10. See Comm. on Citation Formats, Am. Ass'n of Law Libraries, Universal Citation Guide (1999).