My environmental law prof dropped a bomb on us yesterday. He told us that there was an issue with 1-2 of the memos that were turned it and told us if the ppl responsible confessed that he would deal with it privately. If they didn't confess, he would turn it over to the Dean to handle. [Gulp]. You could feel the panic, tension, and paranoia in the room. I mean you can't drop a bomb like that at the end of the semester and not expect that everyone will freak out. Plagiarism is an unforgivable sin in the legal community. You will get kicked out of law school and if by some miracle that you don't, that accusation or charge will follow you into your legal career. For example, all bar applications ask if you were accused of cheating, plagiarism, etc.
Of course, I freaked out. I did a memo on a case but looked at some EPA materials on the subject. Did I quote from them? No. Was I influenced by their reasoning? I don't know. I stopped by and spoke with the professor to both relieve my paranoia and also to talk with him about what he was looking for. I shared with him that sometimes it is difficult to discern what is my own original thought or legal voice after reading alot of materials from what may be a generally accepted legal principles. He asked me to explain what I was talking about and I shared with him my process of working through the memo. He assured me that I did not give him the impression that I was plagiarizing and that he was looking for something or rather someone specifically. Apparently, he is having the same issue in another class and there are students who are in BOTH classes so I guess he suspects that it is one person.
We then talked about the growing trend of students buying and selling papers or writing papers for others. I was floored. I couldn't believe it. Who would do something like that? How can you learn to be a lawyer if you buy someone else's legal reasoning? I don't understand it at all. Is it laziness? Fear of failure? If you just attempt writing something, you'll be okay. You're not going to get an F and who knows you may even do really really well. It also really pisses me off because the majority of us work really really hard. Fortunately, this professor is diligent and has integrity and lucky for the guilty culprit, the professor is willing to work with him/her. What is even crazier is that these "memos" are worth so little of our final grade - 40% for our class and 20% for the other class - definitely not worth the risk.
For those of you out there who are considering law school or who are in law school, don't fall into this trap. The professors will find out and if they do, you are toast.