June 14, 2006
"The Wayne Gretzky of footnotes"
Posted by Gordon Smith

In The Know-It-All, A.J. Jacobs tells this story about his father, Arnold S. Jacobs, a corporate and securities lawyer with Proskauer Rose in New York:

My father is proud of his footnotes. A few years ago, he broke the world's record for most footnotes in a legal article, coming in at an impressive 1,247. Soon after that, a California law professor topped my dad's record with 1,611 footnotes. My dad didn't stand for that. He wrote another legal article and just crushed his opponent. Squashed him with 4,824 footnotes, ensuring his status as the Wayne Gretzky of footnotes. My dad tried to get the Guinness Book of World Records interested, but legal footnotes apparently don't get the same respect as fingernails the size of adult rattlesnakes. So he had to settle for a mention in Harper's Index.

Has anyone (other than Arnold Jacobs) ever thought to investigate the "world record" for law review footnotes? Does anyone (besides Arnold Jacobs) think this is a worthy competition?

When I was publishing my first article, I pulled the plug on the editors at the North Carolina Law Review, who were adding ids and supras and infras in volume. My draft of the article had about 350 footnotes, and when I saw the number of footnotes proposed for addition in the initial edit, I laid down the law: NO MORE THAN 500 FOOTNOTES! It ended up with 487.

By the way, if you are interested in seeing Mr. Jacobs' article, it is An Analysis of Section 16 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 32 N. Y. L. Sch. L. Rev. 206 (1987). It is 511 pages long.

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Comments (4)

1. Posted by Larry on June 14, 2006 @ 20:32 | Permalink

Did the Know-It-All really not know how to spell Gretzky's name? He probably should have come across that at some point in his reading.

2. Posted by Gordon Smith on June 14, 2006 @ 20:34 | Permalink

No, that's my bad. I'm not a hockey fan.

I just changed it.

3. Posted by Kate Litvak on June 15, 2006 @ 0:52 | Permalink

I aspire to establish a world record of law review footnotes! My goal -- an article with zero footnotes. Seeking a sane law review team.

4. Posted by Marc Mayerson on June 15, 2006 @ 8:18 | Permalink

With mixed pride and embarassment I confess that I authored a reply brief in the Delaware Supreme Court that was subject to two orders regarding my footnotes:

1. The first directed that I cut the number of footnotes -- and the brief had come in well inside of page limits so it's not that my use of footnotes was a means of cramming more text in within the alloted page limitations.
2. The second order accepted for filing the revised reply brief but then struck all the footnotes (several of which, following Bryan Garner, were mere citation footnotes rather than substantive arguments).
3. I like footnotes because they enable one to keep the text clean and simple. One can use them to finish points, nail down loose ends, and the like, without distracting the reader who doesn't want to follow the string.
4. My record is 230 footnotes in a single brief (but it was a really long brief . . . . ) I know how can one call it a "brief".

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