Legal Citation and Pop Culture

By: Jan M. Levine, Professor of Law and Director, Legal Research & Writing Program, Duquesne University School of Law

Every academic year, legal writing professors grapple with the problem of how to best teach citation to 1L students.  Although several print- and computer-based sources of exercises are available for students, regardless of the citation guide the school requires (such as the ALWD Guide and the Bluebook), many professors develop their own exercises to expose their students to the myriad complexities of citation.  Experienced teachers know that the most enduring lessons on citation come from students preparing actual documents, such as office memoranda and appellate briefs, because students understand the issues and analysis being explored and have read the sources to be cited.  However, stand-alone exercises are helpful for introducing basic concepts of citation and explaining the more technical aspects of citation, such as full citations, short citations, signals, citation relationship to text, abbreviations, and parentheticals.  To be successful, stand-alone exercises need to have some “hook” that engages students in the otherwise dry topic of citation.

In an effort to make stand-alone citation exercises more enjoyable and realistic I have for many years created exercises based on aspects of media and pop culture that are familiar to me and to my students. I couple them with PowerPoint presentations that include associated visuals and music.  As a long-time science fiction and fantasy fan, in the past I used Star Trek and Lord of the Rings in my exercises. My latest citation exercises are based on case law and other sources that cite to the omnipresent Star Wars franchise and the DC and Marvel comic books, movies, and television shows. Continue reading “Legal Citation and Pop Culture”

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