Law Reviews, Law Schools, Legal Research

Law Student Revolts Against Law Review’s Bluebook Exam

Ah, the Bluebook. Some people love it, but even more people despise it. If you ask my colleague Elie Mystal about the Bluebook, he’ll tell you that it’s the only book in the world he’d actually consider burning in public. Even federal judges hate the Bluebook. In fact, when we held a poll about whether use of the Bluebook should be abolished, 51% of our readers agreed that it should be banished.

All that being said, is it any wonder that a student from a law school in Virginia is raging against the law review’s upcoming Bluebook exam? Several law students have written to us about this student’s “guerilla campaign” against the school’s annual exercise in “academic hazing,” and they have even provided us with copies of this kid’s manifesto. (Yeah, he’s got one.)

Who is this revolutionary, and why does he think the school’s Bluebook exam needs to go?

For the sake of argument, we’re going to refer to this Bluebook exam anarchist as “Che Guevara.” Che is a 3L at the University of Richmond School of Law. Each year, the powers that be at Richmond Law hold a Bluebook exam that accounts for one-fourth of journal selection criteria, and it takes roughly 40 hours to complete.

That sounds pretty awful, and Che’s words — 2,757 of them — definitely reflect that. The Bluebook exam is being given this weekend, but Che doesn’t want people to take it. Che doesn’t care about how good law review experience will look on your résumé. In fact, Che doesn’t think that you need to have law review experience to get a job. Che says that law review experience is “no silver bullet for a job.”

So why, then, does the Bluebook exam take so damn long to complete? Here’s an excerpt from what Che’s fellow law students are calling his “manifesto” (available in full here):

Let us all be thankful the editors of the Bluebook exam aren’t sadistic. Imagine how far they could push the limits knowing how much people want to complete the exam. What if they made it 80 hours instead? That would surely separate the wheat from the chaff. Or what if, in addition to the written portions of the Bluebook exam, a rectal examination was also required of candidates? After all, a tightly-clenched anus seems to be a requirement for this sort of work. Forgive the hyperbole; my point is this: there must be a reasonable limit to the length of this exam. 80 hours is far too long. A rectal exam is too invasive. Even 40 hours, in the absence of some better reasons, is far too long. Our finals here at Richmond usually run about four hours. That is, it takes four hours to assess the skills we’ve acquired over a semester; yet somehow we’re to believe that it takes ten times that length to assess our ability to look stuff up in a book? I’m calling bulls**t. Bulls**t.

Sorry, Che, but invasive as it may be, we think that a rectal exam is already included with that 40-hour Bluebook exam. What are other law students saying about Che’s essay on the Bluebook exam?

[Che] basically [wrote] a manifesto explaining why the Blue Book exam that students are required to take to get on journals at UR is nothing more than academic hazing and ultimately bad for students and the school. It’s a very well written piece and it seems to be gaining traction.

Some 3L who didn’t make the cut to get on one of our FOUR journals melted on his “website” about the difficulty of our Bluebook exam. . . . I apologize in advance for asking you to read this mess he calls an essay.

Can you guess which student survived the Bluebook exam and made it onto law review?

In the end, we’re not sure if Che will succeed in his mission to stop students from taking the Bluebook exam. And given the assumed prestige that goes hand-in-hand with law review membership, Che’s words may fall on deaf ears. But Che will keep fighting in the hopes that he can convince students to stop this academic torture — or, at the very least, have his face printed on a future hipster’s t-shirt. ¡Viva la Revolución!


Earlier: Grammer Pole of the Weak: Backburner for the Bluebook?

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