Law Student Suspended for Copying from Online Contract for Drafting Assignment: What's Wrong with This Picture?

According to this account in the ABA Journal, a third-year law student at the University of La Verne who was suspended for using an online contract in her drafting class has lost an appeal in state court.

As part of the student’s drafting class, she and two other students had been asked to prepare a coffee-supply contract on behalf of a seller. The school subsequently charged the student with having included in her assignment provisions copied from a contract she had found online, as well as provisions copied from a team-member’s contract.

I have nothing to say about the alleged copying from a fellow student. But as regards her being disciplined for copying from a contract that she had found online, it’s unfortunate that things should have come to that.

In order to preclude copying from who knows where, most of the drafting assignments I give my Penn Law students are based on one-off scenarios for which you could never find models online.

But for other, more mainstream assignments, I invite students to scour EDGAR for suitable precedent. In the imperfect real world, contract drafting is for the most part an exercise in judicious copying, and it makes sense to have my course acknowledge that. But I warn my students that anything they find online is, to a greater or lesser extent, bound to be crappy, so if they copy it without performing major surgery, they’ll get a crappy grade.

The fact that the La Verne student ended up getting disciplined for copying from an online contract suggests that the school might want to rethink their drafting assignments.

[Update: Given the odd nature of this story, I wasn’t too surprised to learn, via Above the Law, that the University of La Verne College of Law will be losing its provision ABA accreditation at the end of the month due to low pass-rates by first-time bar-exam takers. Go here for more details.]

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.