I recently began working at a law firm here in Va, doing mostly wills, deeds, trusts and the like, not much real litigation involved.
My question involves what we call “bluebacks”, essentially a cover sheet for signed documents. Ours are blue, but I have seen white ones as well, and they contain the name of the person the document pertains to, what kind of document it is (will, power of attorney, etc) and the date it was signed, as well as the name of our law firm, nice and neat down the middle of the page so that if you were to tri-fold the document it would be on the outside.
I asked a few attorneys at the office who came up with this whole idea, and got nothing. Searching around online all I could come up with were a couple of submarines, some herring and a salmon or two.
I’m assuming this is one more tradition passed down from a long time ago, maybe to make it easier to carry a document or possibly to protect it from damage, but I’m very curious where this tradition started. Any ideas?
Doesn’t this also add a bit of privacy for the documents?
If they are laying around on a lawyers desk when he is consulting with other clients, or on a clerks desk in the waiting room with others present, etc., this cover prevents anyone from being able to casually read part of the will, trust, etc.
I have no experience with will and estates, and haven’t heard the term “blueback” before. But for whatever it’s worth, here’s my guess: Wills and related documents, by nature, tend to be stored for a long time and then need to be retrieved by someone other than the person who made them. Ideally, the testator should keep his will someplace easy to find, and let his heirs know where that place is. But often that doesn’t happen, and the heirs have to rummage around looking for the will, perhaps not even sure what they’re looking for (How many documents are there? Are they in an envelope? Is this piece of paper the whole thing?)
Having a simple cover sheet like you describe might make it easier to spot a will mixed in with a bunch of other papers in a filing cabinet or desk drawer. Also, having the name of your firm might be helpful, since you could presumably be contacted for more information about the decedent’s affairs.
I’m sure there is an interesting, though arcane, explanation of the history of bluebacks. I don’t think TJVM’s guess (though logical), is correct. In New York Criminal Court, “bluebacks” are used on misdemeanor complaints, and “yellowbacks” are used on felony complaints. Bluebacks are also used on some motions and search warrant applications. Stay tuned. . .
I would think that any decent lawyer would be thoughtful enough to keep another client/visitor from reading any such documents that were “laying around”, so to speak. These are serious legal papers, not something we leave sitting out in the open for anyone to take a peek at.
My original idea was that this practice was employed to allow for safekeeping of wills, etc, to keep them from being damaged and to allow for easy transportation. Think way back, to the days when you had to carry your last will and testament in your coat pocket just in case…something like that. Not necessarily easy to find, but protected and well labelled in case of a dispute.
I am interested in the “yellowbacks” idea…like I said, I have come across various estate related documents in “whitebacks” (I call them that because the cover sheet was white and not blue), most of them issued in the sixties or earlier.
I am almost positive that this is some “arcane” practice, I’m just looking for the logic behind it. Plus I’d like to teach the attorneys a thing or two
In New York litigation practice, documents filed in state courts are backed with bluebacks. (This used to be the practice with federal court as well, but the Southern and Eastern districts abolished it several years ago.) The bluebacks have the title and index number of the case, the name, address and phone number of the attorney and a description of the document. The traditional format of the blueback was that these items would be visible if the document were folded up to a business envelope size.
My speculative guess about why they were were used was that court documents were previously filed folded, and thus would be easily identifiable when filed.