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Monday
Jan072013

Be careful when you cut-and-paste from Lexis or Westlaw into your briefs

Happy New Year! 

 I hate starting out 2013 by bitching but I think this might be a valuable tip for attorneys.  I have observed the tendency to cheat a bit and lift entire sections from published opinions on Lexis or Westlaw.  Just the other day, I was reading a brief and I was impressed with the quality of the writing.  I have to admit I was a little surprised because the attorney's past work product didn't reflect such brilliance.  The paragraphs seemed to be original with no quotation marks to show the start/finish of a quote.  And then I saw it!  The proprietary markings of Lexis, including  underlining, asterisks, hyperlinking, and pagination from the various source materials.  The attorney had actually plagiarized entire sections from an opinion!  Let's say you are not lifting material but merely quoting it.  You still need to remember to take out the characters and formatting  inserted by Lexis or Westlaw, so that your "quote" is really how the language appears in case law.  Just because a case cite or language is underlined on your monitor does not mean that it is underlined in the case itself.  If you add emphasis to the quotation, be sure to note that as "emphasis added."  If the original writer has emphasized a word or phrase, be sure to note that as well as "emphasis in original."  Being sloppy can cost you, especially in credibility.