Citation Style – the Lingua Franca of the Law

Is citation style really all that important? Does it really matter whether we use 12 or 13 point font and whether we use the California Style Manual or The Bluebook? Edward W. Jessen, Reporter of Decision for the California Supreme Court argues, yes, in his convincing article, “Citation Style: Why Do We Care?” appearing in the quarterly California Litigation.  
In this article, Mr. Jessen addresses the importance of citation style and conformity. Those of us who have not had the citation previously written out by someone else, knows how much of a hassle it is, and how time consuming it is to be sure you have followed the correct style. However, taking the time and putting the effort to have the correct citation is not all for nothing. Conformity is one of the main reasons to follow a style. Conformity is important because it makes it easier for someone to understand a document they are reading when they are from a different court or a different county. One idea of conformity of style was to make it possible for a lawyer from Los Angeles to read and file a document in Sacramento. The consistency of the document style makes one less hoop for the attorney to have to jump through.
In order to illustrate how important a uniform style is, Mr. Jessen used the example of English used as the international language for aviation. Designating an international language for pilots to communicate creates uniformity. It allows a pilot from Australia to fly and land in Columbia. Having a designated language for aviation, gives pilots the ability to communicate with other pilots from other countries who do not share the same language. This is relevant to the citation style for legal documents. It allows a person who wants to find the resource used in a document to
be able to comprehend that citation and go straight to the original document. A uniform citation style and a designated international language for pilots both serve as a lingua franca, which allows for communication among speakers of different languages, or attorneys who practice different areas of law.