Tabbing the Bluebook

For many 1Ls, it is coming to close of the school year, which means two things: (1) Finals and (2) Law Review Write-On. Law Review is one of the most prestigious things law students can participate in, and many students plan on completing the write-on process. Law schools differ a bit in how they do Law Review Write-Ons, but one thing will be certain: you will use your Bluebook.

Last week, I had a citation exam in my Legal Research and Writing class. We were allowed to use our Bluebooks, as it is more important that you know where to find the rule rather than what the specific rule says- There is no way to memorize every single rule in the Bluebook! To prepare for the exam and to save time searching for the rules, I tabbed my Bluebook. When my friend saw my tabs, she told me I should make a blog post on tabbing the Bluebook. She even said that she searched for a good method on Pinterest and couldn't find many. So here is my method to tabbing the Bluebook. Hopefully, this post can help 1Ls prepare for their law review write-on, work on law review, or any citation exam. For future law students, read on to learn about the Bluebook and bookmark this page for your 1L year.

First, a little bit about the Bluebook: The Bluebook is published by the editors of the Columbia Law Review, The Yale Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. It is the leading source on legal citations. For those of you who are future law students, you will be spending a lot of time with the Bluebook familiarizing yourself with the rules and all of the intricacies of legal writing and citation. For those of you who are current law students, you know just how frustrating the Bluebook can be. There are 21 main rules, but many sub-rules, like Rule 12.7.2(c).

To tab my Bluebook, I used Post-it Page Markers. I prefer these because they are skinny enough so I can stick a ton in my Bluebook without them overlapping too much but also because they come in tons of colors, so I can color coordinate everything.

Each color represented a different category of rules. This was how I color coordinated my tabs:

  • Green: Abbreviations and Tables
  • Blue: Symbols
  • Light Pink: Books
  • Dark Pink: Other Secondary Sources
  • Light Yellow: Signals and Quotes
  • Dark Yellow: Constitutions and Statutes
  • Purple: Case Citations
I made a little chart of what the colors represented in case I forgot. I stuck this on a larger Post-it note and put it in the front cover of my Bluebook. 

These were the categories I tabbed because they are the rules I was tested on and used the most. Each law student and school might vary in what they are tested over and which rules they use the most.

For each tab, I wrote a brief description of what the rule covered instead of the rule number. There are so many rules that I would not be remember the rule number with the rule title. Therefore, I tabbed each rule by a few words that captured what the rule was about. For example, some of my tabs are "Order of Signals," "Period. Short Form" (period. is short for periodicals), and "Public Domain."

Once you have your categories and colors set, make a list of all the rules/sub-rules you want to tab in numerical order. Include a brief description of the rules as well.

Next- and this is the trick- tab each category starting with the LAST rule you plan to tab. Work your way up from the bottom to the top of your list for each category. This allows you to space the tabs out perfectly and not have one tab covered by the tab immediately before it.

Depending on how many categories you have, you may have to "layer" some tabs. See the purple tabs on my Bluebook. To make sure the purple tabs are seen behind the light yellow tabs, all I did was put the purple tabs farther off of the page then the yellow tabs.

That's it!!! I hope my method of tabbing the Bluebook helps make it a little easier to prepare for citation exams and journal write-ons. Here is the quick summary of my method: color coordinate the categories of rules you plan to tab; list out the rules to tab in numerical order; tab each rule starting from the bottom of your list up.

Do/how do you tab your Bluebook? Leave your thoughts in the comments!


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