As a practicing lawyer, if you aren’t plagiarizing, you’re committing malpractice. Litigators copy forms and arguments from winning briefs rather than bill their clients for reinventing the wheel. Transactional lawyers copy enforceable agreements to ensure their agreements are enforceable too. Partners routinely present documents prepared by associates (and sometimes even paralegals) as their own work. And judges are the most prolific plagiarists of all, copying briefs, opinions, treatises, and legal and nonlegal scholarship, adopting arguments from lawyers and holdings from other judges as their own and claiming authorship of opinions written primarily by their clerks or the parties to the litigation.

Legal writing instruction should include teaching law students how to plagiarize effectively. If practicing lawyers plagiarize, then plagiarism is a skill we should teach our students. At the very least, legal writing professors should explain that plagiarism is an essential part of the practice of law and encourage students to reflect on when and why plagiarism is useful in practice, even though it is prohibited in the academic realm. We owe it to our students to be honest about what the practice of law entails, even if it conflicts with our own academic norms. After all, academic plagiarism norms are just a means to the end of managing the academic gift economy. We should not elevate the interests of our guild over the interests of our students, who plan to join a different one.

Document Type


Publication Date



Notes/Citation Information

Brian L. Frye, Plagiarism Pedagogy: Why Teaching Plagiarism Should Be a Fundamental Part of Legal Education, 99 Wash. U. L. Rev. Online 1 (2021).


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.