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.]
9 thoughts on “Law Student Suspended for Copying from Online Contract for Drafting Assignment: What's Wrong with This Picture?”
Is sounds as if the student created a compilation of precedent provisions that seemed relevant to the particular circumstances. That is exactly what contract lawyers do every day.
Unless the student copied a contract wholesale and tried to pass it off as his own work product, I don’t see the problem. If copying from others’ contracts is unethical, there are a slew of unethical contracts lawyers in the world.
How the heck did this get into state court?
Perhaps we should we all be fired too….
When I taught contract drafting, I also cautioned them that anything they cut-and-paste had a strong risk of being worse than drafting from scratch. I also let students cut-and-paste whatever they wanted so long as they disclosed to me the source. Eric.
When I taught drafting, I told the students that not only would it not count as plagiarism to copy language from examples I gave them and others they found, but that I expected them to do it and would count it against them if they didn’t. No reinventing the wheel. I did have to discipline a student for copying large chunks of text in his diligence report from the target’s public filings (without attribution). But that’s a different story.
I was the unfortunate student that got suspended, and I appreciate this post and all the supporting professors… My case is actually still in court, the appeal we lost was based on a preliminary injunction, but the actual case will go to trial in January…
Ironically, despite the school’s repeated attempt to screw me over, I actually passed the bar on the first try, so I get to benefit their passage rates… ha.
Thanks for the update. Good luck, and keep me posted.
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Good article, Thanks!