One of the more daunting aspects of being a 1L is learning to make effective use of The Bluebook. Most students entering law school are familiar with one citation style or another (MLA, APA, etc.), but few have ever used a system as complex and seemingly arbitrary as The Bluebook. Kirk Sigmon, Cornell J.D. and associate attorney at Morrison & Foerster in Washington, D.C., saw an opportunity to straighten out the “veritable leviathan” known as The Bluebook by automating its formatting rules into a website. The result: Citeus Legalus.
Citeus is a fun site, owing in no small part to the comical mascot (a parody of Sigmon) drawn by artist Naomi Milliken. Sigmon has even referred to the site as “the legal citation generator for lazy law students.” However, I would caution readers against writing off this website as academically suspect—there is some serious infrastructure operating behind the scenes.
Students can generate citations based on cases, periodicals, books, statutes, constitutions, and several types of government documents. Importantly, there is no generator for internet citations. The reason for that missing feature likely has to do with the endless variety of sources available online. Once a student chooses a category, he or she can manually enter the relevant information, or search for it through a database. For example, if I wanted to cite a casebook, I would select “Search and Cite” under the Books tab. In the search field, I would type “Roberts Remedies,” and a list of books would pop up with cover photos. After finding the correct book and selecting “Cite This Book,” all of the available publishing information is auto-generated with just a couple fields left for me to do myself. Additionally, students can save their citations in the Cite Briefcase for later retrieval.
Citeus has the potential to teach The Bluebook as thoroughly or more so than those endless Legal Writing workshops and late night scavenger hunts. Building citations from scratch can certainly be beneficial, but it is not the only method of instruction. Legal Writing professors and law reviews both make use of the problem-spotting method where students must painstakingly analyze a citation to ensure conformity with The Bluebook. Used in this way, Citeus eliminates the stress of foraging while reinforcing rule analysis. To utilize Citeus to its maximum effect, students should generate their citations automatically and then thoroughly check them against The Bluebook. In my opinion, students who are not willing to do that extra step should avoid using any automatic citation generator, whether it is created by a law student, Westlaw, or any other reputable source.
I contacted Sigmon prior to this review to get a peek at some features that may be coming in the future. While not mentioning an app specifically, he did indicate that there would be some level of mobile functionality such that students could smoothly generate citations from their phones and tablets. Further, Sigmon hopes to integrate Citeus with scholarship databases such as Google Scholar, which would allow a sort of “one-click citation” functionality. Stay tuned, folks!
This review was authored by Justin Iverson, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2015, Savannah Law School.
**This review is not intended to be an endorsement of any product. Its sole purpose is to provide useful information to law students.