A recurring issue we’ve seen at the reference desk is a student who wants to use ALWD or the Bluebook to cite to a resource located in Bloomberg Law (BLaw), Lexis Advance (LA) or WestlawNext (WLN). The reason this has become a problem is that the current editions of ALWD and Bluebook predate those three services, so there are no examples in the citation guides for BLaw, LA, or WLN, and the existing examples for LexisNexis and Westlaw Classic do not translate to the new databases.
Generally, ALWD covers citations to legal databases in chapter 39 (“Westlaw and LexisNexis”) while Bluebook covers the same in Rule 18.3 (“Commercial Electronic Databases”). However, these rules use citation elements that no longer exist in the new databases, such as a LexisNexis “library name,” or a Westlaw Classic “database identifier.” How can we translate the ALWD and Bluebook citations to cover the new databases?
For example, Rule 15.9 of the Bluebook illustrates a citation to a handbook available on Westlaw by citing to the Westlaw database identifier for the book, “LDCHBK”:
Abbey G. Hairston, Leave and Disability Coordination Handbook ¶ 110 (2009), available at Westlaw LDCHBK.
The database indentifier “LDCHBK” does not appear in WestlawNext (strictly speaking, “LDCHBK” can be used in the WLN search box to locate the handbook, but if one pulls up the handbook that way, there is no indication that it has a database identifier). If one wishes to identify the handbook on WLN, we need a replacement.
The first rule of thumb when creating a “new” citation is to provide enough information so that a reader can herself locate the cited source. In this case, a possible workaround would be to use WLN’s “trail” that appears above the handbook’s title on the screen. Here, the trail is “Home > Secondary Sources > Labor & Employment Secondary Sources > Labor & Employment Texts & Treatises.” We can take the most specific “location” for the handbook in WLN, which will always be the last place in the trail, Labor & Employment Texts & Treatises, and use that in the citation:
Abbey G. Hairston, Leave and Disability Coordination Handbook ¶ 110 (2009), available at WestlawNext Labor & Employment Texts & Treatises.
This is bulky when compared with a six-letter database identifier, but it’s less bulky than using WLN’s URL (URLs are problematic for other reasons too: in LA, for instance, there is no deep-linking, so a URL will not get a user to the cited source; in BLaw, direct URLs work only if the user is already signed in to BLaw).
This trail method will not work for LA, which uses tabs. Rather, to cite to a source available in the LA database, one can use a method derived from the Bluebook for a source that requires a query:
American College of Trial Lawyers, ACTL Mass Tort Litigation Manual § 7.04 (2006), available at Lexis Advance (follow “Browse Sources hyperlink; then “Search Sources” for “ACTL Mass Tort Litigation Manual”; then follow “View Table of Contents” hyperlink).
The citation is quite bulky, so if it will be cited multiple times, I would recommend adding “(hereinafter “ACTL Manual”)” at the end of the citation.
BLaw does not use a trail method either, so citing to a treatise on Bloomberg Law would be like the LA example, for instance:
American Bar Association, Bankruptcy Business Essentials § 1.1 (2009), available at Bloomberg Law (follow “Practice Centers” tab; then follow “Bankruptcy” hyperlink; then follow “Books & Treatises” hyperlink; then follow “Bankruptcy Business Essentials” hyperlink) (hereinafter “BBE”).
Remember that you won’t always find an example that fits the item to which you’re trying to cite and the source from which you obtained it. Bluebook & ALWD have enough examples, however, that you can find something similar or combine elements of two different examples, and get an acceptable citation that gets the job done. If you want advice or you’re worried about a citation you invented, feel free to visit us at the reference desk. Also, keep in mind that among our Library Guides, we have created a guide to using the Bluebook, which might be helpful if you’ve only used ALWD up to this point.
Thanks for the clarifications on how to cite these online legal sources.