Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Hierarchies Of Elitism And Gender: The Bluebook And The ALWD Guide

Steven K. Homer (New Mexico), Hierarchies of Elitism and Gender: The Bluebook and The ALWD Guide, 41 Pace L. Rev. 1 (2020):

Hierarchies persist in legal academia. Some of these, while in plain view, are not so obvious because they manifest in seemingly small, mundane choices. Synecdoche is a rhetorical device used to show how one detail in a story tells the story of the whole.

This Article examines hierarchies of elitism and gender through a lens of synecdoche. The focus is on the choice of citation guide. Even something as seemingly benign and neutral as choosing a citation guide can reveal hierarchies of elitism and gender bias in legal education and the legal profession. Put another way, the choice of citation guide exists in—is inextricably embedded in—structural hierarchies of the legal profession. This Article examines the ways the choice of a citation guide reinforces elitism and gender bias by examining the use of two common citation guides, The Bluebook and the ALWD Guide. The Bluebook was developed by law students engaged in prestige activities at top-ranked law schools and retains the traits of its birth. This is in contrast to the ALWD Guide, which was written by experienced, professional legal writing professors who have dedicated their careers to teaching lawyers how to practice law. The Article describes the ALWD Guide’s focus on educating students to be practitioners, and the role of elitism and gender bias in keeping the ALWD Guide from displacing The Bluebook, despite The Bluebook’s well-documented deficiencies in training attorneys.

This Article describes how learning citation gives students a kind of social capital through explicit and implicit messages they receive about the relationship of citation to their aptitude for the study of law, the connections between citation and prestige activities like law reviews, and the rhetoric of citation as a proxy for “good lawyering.” It explains how the elevation of The Bluebook elevates and perpetuates elitism as a substitute for quality over the expertise of women—in this case, women working in lower-status, lower-paying positions.

It ultimately uses the example of the choice of a citation guide to examine the distribution of authority, power, and resources along gender lines in society in general and in legal education. The choice of citation guide is a locus of power, and resistance to small choices that shift power accumulates into the perpetuation of the hierarchical status quo. It concludes that by using this example of synecdoche, we can examine and perhaps shift our awareness of who has power, authority, and expertise within the legal profession and move toward rebalancing this power and authority based upon real expertise.

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