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My attorney says he copies and pastes a good portion of his work. He says that most lawyers do that. Should I fire him?

San Diego, CA |

My attorney says he copies and pastes a good portion of his work. He says that most lawyers do that. Should I fire him?

Attorney Answers 7

Posted

I'm not sure why you would find it objectionable, if he is copying and pasting perfectly good legal argument. Why reinvent the wheel? If you have perfectly good text to suit the purpose, why would you spend time, and the client's hard-earned money, reinventing it from scratch, only to charge the client more?

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Asker

Posted

Isn't it plagiarism?

L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor

Posted

Interesting question. The following article, on the website of the American Bar Association, a large voluntary professional organization, examines this issue: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/.../criminal.../cjsu11_ethics.pdf. The authors' perspective is best summarized by a paragraph found early in the article: "Copying by lawyers in briefs and pleadings from the work of others bears a deceptive superficial similarity to plagiarism. It is thus tempting for ethics authorities to label and denounce such copying as plagiarism without examining whether such labeling and classification make sense. Our view is that the better practice is to avoid labeling and treating copying by attorneys in the context of litigation filings as plagiarism. It is also preferable not to treat such copying, even if not openly acknowledged, as an ethics violation in and of itself. Rather, the primary focus should be on (1) the legal and factual merits of the positions advanced in the filing; and (2) the competence and diligence of the lawyer who signed the filing."

Posted

I don't see why that's a concern. Attorneys do many routine tasks and use the framework of documents they've previously prepared, then tailoring it to fit a specific circumstance. For example, when drafting a contract I usually start with a standard template I've developed and then add language and specifics as appropriate. I fail to see why you view that as inappropriate. Why not talk to him and explore your concerns and see what he has to say. Otherwise, if you aren't happy with the representation your attorney is providing you always are free to find a new one.

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Posted

"Should I fire him?" Not without knowing a lot more about what he meant, and what services he is providing. It could very well be that a "copy and paste" technique is serving your needs well without any element of dishonesty. Except in a very few situations attorneys recycle language, terms, clauses, and citations and use published or self-developed forms. Drafting and reinventing anew every will, every lease, every discovery request, every contract, every motion, every brief, etc. would not only cost a client a great deal more but would unnecessarily risk errors and omissions. Word processing software facilitates this level of client service, and not having to rekeyboard promotes accuracy. There is still a great deal of expertise needed in knowing exactly what words are the right words to meet the specific client's needs.

Best wishes for an outcome you can accept, and please remember to designate a best answer.

This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.

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2 comments

Peter A. Zamoyski

Peter A. Zamoyski

Posted

If you have a medical malpractice case, you should retain the best medical malpractice attorney who you trust and are able to maintain a good, solid attorney-client relationship with. If the only negative you've ever experienced with this attorney is copying and pasting and everything else--your relationship, your trust, the attorney's accomplishments in the case thus far--is positive and checks out, you should be counting your blessings and jumping for joy. If the copying and pasting issue sticks in your craw because this is the 50th straw that finally broke the proverbial camel's back, then you should first have an open, frank discussion with your attorney and try to hash it out. If you leave that meeting still completely dissatisfied, then you should discuss your situation with other attorneys to better gauge whether your attorney is actually doing poor work or if your expectations might be a little bit off. Good luck!

Marilynn Mika Spencer

Marilynn Mika Spencer

Posted

Good suggestions from Mr. Zamoyski and from Ms. Sinclair.

Posted

While most of the motions in limine I draft for trial deal with issues that have come up over and over again, and the principal argument for, say, precluding evidence of a criminal history, or precluding evidence of "AOB" or alcohol on breath at the scene of the accident, will be the same, though the cases supporting the point may have changed, whether it be for better or worse. There are standard portions of memos of law in support or opposition will always include a section outlining the standard to be applied. Aside from shepardizi

We are serious lawyers for the seriously injured. I am a co-author of WEITZ ON AUTOMOBILE LITIGATION: THE NO FAULT HANDBOOK. The opinions expressed in this answer are not legal advice. These opinions are thoughts based on New York practice. We have no attorney-client relationship. Conducting a conversation with me through the avvo comments section does not create an attorney-client relationship. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future performance.

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Posted

In response to your comment to Mr. Taylor: Attorneys rely heavily on citation to authority. In other words, we refer to previous cases, statutes, regulations and more, all as authoritative support for our cases. The courts want us to do this because the American legal system generally relies on precedent. Precedent is law, usually cases, that came before (preceded) the case the attorney is working on, and is used to guide or decide a legal issue. Most often, we include the citation, or legal reference, to the work we are citing. For example, I might make a statement then cite to the case of City of Moorpark v. Superior Court, 18 Cal.4th 1143 (1998). If I make the statement in quote marks, I am citing the exact words from the case. If I use my own words, without quote marks, I am citing to the concepts, facts, or decision in City of Moorpark.

But even without reference to a case or other authority, there are many legal concepts that are so well established that no citation is necessary. And attorneys often use the same text, over and over and over again, to support a legal claim. We use the same text because those words are precedential – they worked before, and we use them because we want the words to work again on behalf of our client.

In short, it is not automatically wrong, and not automatically plagiarism, to use words more than once.

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Posted

Is he cutting and pasting good stuff? If so keep him? There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. If someone else has prepared a good brief, a good complaint, a good motion and you can make it work for you case, there is no reason to start from scratch.

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Posted

If you have a medical malpractice case, you should retain the best medical malpractice attorney who you trust and are able to maintain a good, solid attorney-client relationship with. If the only negative you've ever experienced with this attorney is copying and pasting and everything else--your relationship, your trust, the attorney's accomplishments in the case thus far--is positive and checks out, you should be counting your blessings and jumping for joy. If the copying and pasting issue sticks in your craw because this is the 50th straw that finally broke the proverbial camel's back, then you should first have an open, frank discussion with your attorney and try to hash it out. If you leave that meeting still completely dissatisfied, then you should discuss your situation with other attorneys to better gauge whether your attorney is actually doing poor work or if your expectations might be a little bit off. Good luck!

No attorney-client relationship exists based on the interchange of information provided. Please note: An attorney-client relationship cannot exist with Mr. Zamoyski and his law firm unless there is a fully-executed written retainer agreement by attorney and client. Information provided here is not intended to constitute legal advice, but is informational only.

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