Guide to Mastering Bluebook and Westlaw Citations


With the digital era’s rise, online legal research platforms like Westlaw have become indispensable for legal professionals. The use of correct Bluebook citations is crucial within these platforms to maintain clarity and uniformity in referencing legal resources and documents. This definitive guide aims to provide a thorough understanding of Bluebook and Westlaw citations, assisting legal professionals in effectively using these tools in their legal research endeavors.

Understanding Westlaw

Westlaw is one of the most widely used online legal research service used in over sixty countries. It provides comprehensive case law databases, legal publications, and legislation. Thus, understanding its navigation and utilization methods can greatly expedite your legal research process.

Navigation within Westlaw

To navigate Westlaw efficiently, understanding its layout and functions are essential. The search bar is the most used function and can help you quickly find case law or statutes by law reports citation, party names, or subject area. However, do not overlook the directories that can guide you to specific areas within the law like Commercial Law or Criminal Law.

Utilizing Westlaw’s KeyCite Feature

A standout feature of Westlaw is KeyCite, a citation indexing system that lets you find how your needed case has been treated by later decisions. This feature also allows you to determine whether a case is still good law, thus accurately informing your legal argument.

Understanding Bluebook Citations

Moving towards Bluebook citation, this is a standardized system of citation, predominantly used in the legal field, to uniformly cite all forms of legal documentation, be it court cases, statutes, law reviews, or constitutions. Here’s an overview of the primary citation formats within the Bluebook system:

Citation Format for Court Cases

A citation for a court case in Bluebook format generally includes five main components: the name of the case, the published source where the case can be found, a parenthetical that indicates the court and jurisdiction that made the decision, the year of the decision, and finally, the page on which the case begins.

Citation Format for Statutes

Citing a statute in Bluebook format consists of four elements: the name of the enactment, the title or chapter number of the code, the code name, the year of the version of the code you used, and the specific section cited.

How to Integrate Bluebook Citations into Westlaw

Accurately citing your legal sources using Bluebook and searching them on Westlaw may seem overwhelming initially, but with a methodical approach, it’s quite manageable. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Identify Relevant Citations: First, distinguish the court cases, statutes, or other legal documents you need to cite.

  2. Apply Bluebook Rules: Apply the Bluebook citation rules to format your citations accurately.

  3. Conduct Search on Westlaw: Enter the citation in Westlaw’s search bar for the desired legal document. KeyCite can be utilized to check the validity and relevance of the case.


Understanding Bluebook citation styles and incorporating them within your Westlaw research is an essential skill for every legal professional. These systems can seem confusing initially, but with time and practice, they become significant tools to strengthen legal arguments, making them an integral part of lawyering in the digital age. Our comprehensive guide has aimed to simplify these processes, paving the path for efficient and successful legal research.

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