Plagiarism in Legal Briefs
I was having a conversation with a colleague the other day about the fact that there does not seem to be a clear set of norms about copying from another attorney’s brief. Suppose I were working on a case and I read a brief that made a particular point really well. If I cited that brief in an attempt to fairly attribute the source when I made the same point, then I’d look like an uncreative doofus. If I did not cite the brief, though, then that would (or could) be plagiarism. Granted, another brief is not authoritative, but a cite could be required for respect rather than for authority.
It seems, though, that lawyers don’t care whether people plagiarize their briefs. Part of that may be because plagiarism is hard to detect and does not matter for the case where the argument was first made. (Indeed, attorneys are thrilled when the judge in their case plagiarizes their brief in writing the opinion.) Or maybe people are flattered that others would copy their work. I’m not sure why attorneys have such a laid back view of plagiarism in briefs. Thoughts?