Chicago-Kent College of Law





TO:                 Spring 2006 Legal Writing 3, Legal Writing 4, and Seminar Instructors


FROM:           Stephen D. Sowle

Mary Rose Strubbe


DATE:            February 7, 2006


RE:                 Memo to Students About Plagiarism





Attached are copies of a memo that reminds Legal Writing 3, Legal Writing 4, and seminar students of their obligations, under the Chicago-Kent Code of Conduct, concerning proper attribution of sources.  Please distribute the memo to the students enrolled in your course this semester. We encourage you to spend some time reviewing the memo with your students in order to emphasize the importance of this issue.  We would also ask you to emphasize to your students that these guidelines apply to initial drafts of papers, not just the finished product (this has caused some difficulties in recent semesters).


If you have any questions, feel free to contact either of us (Mary Rose: 312/906-5288,; Steve: 312/906-5282,

                                       Chicago-Kent College of Law





TO:                 Spring 2006 Legal Writing 3, Legal Writing 4, and Seminar Students


FROM:           Stephen D. Sowle

Assistant Dean for Academic Administration and Student Affairs


Mary Rose Strubbe

Director of the Legal Research and Writing Program


DATE:            February 7, 2006


RE:                 Ethics Guidelines Concerning Plagiarism




As you begin researching and writing your paper(s) for this course, please remember that the Ethics Guidelines for Chicago-Kent Writing Classes, including the provisions on proper attribution of sources, apply to seminars and other upper-level research and writing courses. You received a copy of the Ethics Guidelines in your first year. We strongly encourage you to review the Guidelines, available online at


The majority of reports of ethics violations from upper-level writing courses in the past few years have involved allegations of plagiarism.  Because it is our hope that no student will be reported for any alleged violations of the Ethics Guidelines this semester, we want to remind you about the rules involving proper attribution of sources.


The Chicago-Kent Code of Conduct, section 2.1, states:


It shall be a violation of this Code for a matriculated or non-matriculated student, whether or not currently enrolled in the College, to engage in or attempt to engage in any of the following conduct, which, unless otherwise stated, must be done knowingly, recklessly, or negligently:  . . .  (a) representing, expressly or impliedly, the work of another to be one’s own.


Please note that, under this section, a plagiarism charge can be brought even if you did not intend to commit plagiarism – negligence is enough.  To avoid inadvertently running afoul of the rules, please review carefully the attached discussion of plagiarism, excerpted from the

Ethics Guidelines.  These rules apply to all drafts turned in to your professor, not just the final draft.   Please be careful to follow these guidelines – the penalties for conviction of a Code of Conduct violation involving plagiarism can be severe and usually include a notation on the student’s transcript, a failing grade in the class, and notification of the Board of Bar Examiners.



There are several ways in which students may engage in plagiarism, on either a draft or a final paper:


(1) Quoting the words of another without attribution


When using a quotation, cite the source, and use ellipses, brackets, and quotation marks scrupulously to indicate which words are your own and which are the words of another.  (See ALWD Manual Rules 48, 49.) Changing one or two words within a sentence does not eliminate the need to use quotation marks.  If one or two words are inserted or omitted, use quotation marks, even if you have cited the source, and indicate the addition or omission with brackets or ellipses.  Even very brief quotations, such as the key words of a statute, should be placed in quotation marks when they are legally significant.


(2) Paraphrasing the words of another without attribution.


When rewriting the words of another, cite to the source.  This requirement is particularly important when you are relying on the work of scholars in law review articles or treatises. When paraphrasing language from a case, proper attribution will emphasize the weight and importance of the idea.  “Paraphrasing” means more than changing one or two words; a proper paraphrase reproduces the idea in substantially your own words and, again, always requires a citation. The only exception to this rule may occur in a class where a student is using a legal form that is intended to be copied without attribution.  Such forms are often used as a starting point in drafting a wide range of instruments, from litigation documents such as complaints or interrogatories through commercial instruments and estate planning documents. In such a case, the use of the form will not constitute plagiarism, although drafting instructors generally will ask students to identify what forms have been used in order to determine whether a student has used an appropriate form and effectively adapted it for use in the assignment.


(3) Using the ideas of another without attribution.


When using the ideas of a source, provide an acknowledgment of the contribution made by that source to your own work.  Likewise, adopting the same structure or analytical framework as a prior source will require attribution.  When the structure or substance of another's work may be considered a part of general legal knowledge, however, it is debatable whether attribution is required.  A good practice is to trace an idea to its original source and credit that source, while explaining how the idea has evolved since the original author expressed it.  The general rule is always to err on the side of giving credit.


(4) Taking the work of another student.


Students may not take the work of another student, either a current classmate or a student who took the class in the past, and present it as their own.