Thursday, April 27, 2006

The plagiarism scandals continue. I received two resumes this morning from 1Ls, desperate for jobs, trying to see if there are any last-minute openings in our summer program. Of course there aren't. They clearly mass-mailed these things to hundreds of firms across the country, desperate for any job. Any job that'll pay them $2600/week. We don't want them. We have enough 2Ls. We don't need any 1Ls. Especially not at this point in the process. They must be great catches to not have a job less than a month before school's over.

But that's not the problem. The problem is that these two resumes are virtually identical, except for the name at the top and the schools the two students attend. Clearly plagiarism. Except it's not. Every resume we get is virtually the same as every other one. None of these students do anything. They've all been preparing to be lawyers since they were four years old. The obligatory stint on the debate team in high school. Some writing for the high school newspaper. Membership in a meaningless honor society I've never heard of. Recipient of a scholarship I don't care about. Law Review, or at least a specialty journal. Mock trial. Moot court. A year as a paralegal. Or a summer as a paralegal. Or they wish they could have been a paralegal. No hooks to grab onto. Nothing unique to ask about. Of course, it's because they know that if there's anything unique about their resume, we're going to throw it out. I don't want to see resumes from students who are going to be too busy playing sports, listening to music, following current events, or planning a vacation to put in the hours we need.

The other scandal this morning concerns a memo I received from a third-year associate. I asked him to summarize the recent circuit court rulings on a certain issue, and he handed me a memo I know I've seen before. I called him into my office. After some questioning, he admitted he'd once looked through the database and read a memo someone had written on a similar topic, a few years ago. "But it's been six months since I read the memo," he said.

"If it's been six months since you read the memo," I asked him, "how can you explain that there are forty descriptions of case holdings that are virtually identical to what you wrote in the memo you handed me this morning?"

"I don't know," he said. "I'm shocked and horrified to learn about these similarities. All I can say is that the memo must have really affected me. It was a very moving document. I read it multiple times. I must have internalized the language. Like the facade I put on every day I'm in the office, covering up my true feelings about the kinds of work we do, that memo became part of me, intertwined with my soul, and when I sat down to write, those were the words that poured from my heart."

"Well, that's fine," I said. "My concern isn't for where you got the words in your memo. You're allowed to cut and paste from memos in the database if they're still accurate. That's not a problem at all. I just called you in to make sure you billed the client as if you wrote this all from scratch. There's no reason not to bill the hours even if you found a shortcut."

"Oh," he said. "Is that all? Sure, I billed the client for it."

"Great. Keep up the good work."

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