Thursday, June 23, 2005

ALWD Manual is about hierarchy?

Why did the Association of Legal Writing Directors create the ALWD Citation Manual to compete with the Bluebook? I thought I knew, but I just read a competing viewpoint.

In a symposium issue of the University of Missouri at Kansas City Law Review, a student wrote a pointed critique of the ALWD Manual, in particular the reason it was created. I could paraphrase his point, but he makes it clearly, so I'll quote him. For context, remember that the ALWD Manual is created by legal-writing professors and that the Bluebook is created by law-review students at Columbia, Harvard, Penn, and Yale:
    This Comment argues that the attempt by legal writing professors to wrest control of legal citation from law students is a blatant expression of the most obvious form of hierarchical control in legal education. It asks whether the dissemination of competing citation systems is the best way to address the dispute at hand, or whether the publication of the ALWD Manual simply represents an attempt by one group, situated toward the bottom of the law school teaching hierarchy (legal research and writing faculty) to exert what power the hierarchy gives them over one of the few groups situated below themselves (students).
Eric Shimamoto, Student Author, Comment: To Take Arms Against A See Of Trouble: Legal Citation And The Reassertion Of Hierarchy, 73 UMKC L. Rev. 443, 444 (2004).

This view of the situation is spin. Shimamoto has spun the situation to match his viewpoint. I disagree with his spin, and I can think of three other valid ways the ALWD Manual could be spun.
  1. The three law professors who were most visible in creating the ALWD Manual were Jan Levine of Temple, Richard Neumann of Hofstra, and Darby Dickerson of Stetson. All three are named in Shimamoto's piece. So one way to spin the ALWD Manual would be as less-powerful law schools fighting against the more powerful law schools whose students publish the Bluebook--Columbia, Harvard, Penn, and Yale. Talk about your "blatant expression of the most obvious form of hierarchical control in legal education," as Shimamoto put it. Well maybe the less-powerful schools were tired of having the big shots control legal citation.

  2. The Bluebook was the only source for legal citation for many, many years. It had a monopoly on legal citation--there is no other way to describe it. One way to spin the ALWD Manual would be as an effort to introduce competition into a monopolized market. (And I think it worked because the Bluebook has changed and improved in response.)

  3. Many consider the Bluebook to be poorly written and poorly designed, besides being a terrible teaching tool. One way to spin the ALWD Manual would be as an effort to create a better product that is more useful to the people who have to use it and teach from it.
Of the four possible spins, I find Shimamoto's the least persuasive.

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