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The Perils of Copying and Pasting Without Attribution

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Copy and paste.

It's such a common practice, it's practically one word. Lawyers do it all the time, too.

But you can't copy other people's words without attribution. It's not just about copyright and plagiarism; it's about embarrassment.

More Than 1,000 Words

Robert Hanlon knows what we're talking about. According to reports, he got caught copying more than 1,000 words from two articles for a brief.

Opposing counsel detected it first when they noticed a change in his writing style. A Google search later, they found where he got it.

It was good stuff: one was an article by Foley & Larnder lawyers; the other by Jenner & Block. Hanlon didn't credit them in his brief.

Hanlon's case had made the papers because it involved unauthorized credit card expenses and a town clerk. But if there's one thing reporters like more than government scandal, it's words.

Three Words: "Go Pound Sand"

A reporter for the Northwest Herald called Hanlon about the plagiarism claim.

"Go pound sand," Hanlon responded. "I'm not dignifying this."

Of course, that didn't help. The internet edition also linked to the "uncited, word-for-word copy" of the pilfered publication.

As a footnote to a separate story, the Herald reported that Hanlon billed the township $276,000 last year and more than $107,000 this year. That was at his $400 hourly rate for, um, writing briefs and stuff.

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