New Guide Takes Legal Citations to the “Xtreme”

Move over, Bluebook. ALWD, step aside — or get shoved out of the way. Like it or not, there’s a new legal citation protocol in town: the “X-Ref.”

Short for Xtreme Legal Reference and Citation Guide, the X-Ref hopes to shake up the staid norms of legal citation, which, for the past decade, have been set primarily by the Bluebook, to a lesser degree, the Association of Legal Writing Directors Citation Manual. Calling their new publication “edgy” and “modern,” editors of the first-edition X-Ref say the field is ready for a revolution.

Possible document which may be cited

“This isn’t your grandfather’s legal-citation guide, or standards that are going to be used by some old judge,” said editor Philip Dramm. “The X-Ref is for attorneys looking to shoot their memos full of adrenaline. It’s basically legal citation on steroids.”

X-Ref overhauls every element of accepted style, replacing them with a mix of artistic, noncomformist, and unconventional formats. Some of the changes are drastic, most notably the total replacement of numbers with Roman numerals. Other changes are very specific, such as using lesser-known fonts when citing foreign legal sources; when citing New Zealand courts, for example, the X-Ref requires use of the “Shruti” font.

Most source abbreviations themselves have been modified to be more “hip,” Dramm explained, so that Treasury regulations previously denoted as “Treas. Reg.,” are, under X-Ref, shortened to the less formal “T-Regz.”

“We wanted our citations to have a linguistic quality to them, a sort of oral flow,” said Samantha York, a consultant on the X-Ref staff. “Citing to ‘S.D.’ for the South Dakota Supreme Court isn’t nearly as cool as citing to the ‘S-Dak SCO-Crew.’ If you’re referencing a previous footnote, ‘supra’ is just about a boring word as there is. In X-Ref, you’d ‘smackback’ that note.”

Interestingly, use of the X-Ref would, for the first time ever, introduce color into formal legal documents. Citations to various journals are given specified colors, for example, the University of Miami Entertainment and Sports Law Review is cited in “purpaqua,” described a “mix of purple and aqua.” As periodicals are cited in all lower-case, with no spaces, an X-Ref citation to the journal is mia-vips&ballerz.”

“Black and white is the past. X-Ref is here to bring the flash,” said Dramm.

Publicly, editors at Bluebook and ALWD said they welcomed the competition. Privately, however, many expressed doubt as to whether X-Ref would take hold. Many attorneys said they would sample X-Ref just for the experience, but wouldn’t be giving up on their traditional citation guides any time soon.

“Sure, you might write a memo, just within the office, with X-Ref. If things are a little slow around the office, it might be entertaining,” said Jack Wasner, a partner at Wasner, Murg & Lorry in Detroit. “But I think people will see it for the gimmick it is.”

Dramm brushed off such comments as uninformed.

“Once you start working with X-Ref, you won’t want to ever go back. Literally spray-painting in a citation using the graffiti function of MS Paint… how could you settle with typing words after that?” he said. “X-Ref is going to change the game. And you can [expletive] cite me on it.”

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2 Responses to New Guide Takes Legal Citations to the “Xtreme”

  1. Laurence Tribe says:

    First goes the law; then the nation.

  2. Maureen says:

    Seriously, I mean, like, yeah, and what he said.

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