The University of New Hampshire Law Review


Language models like ChatGPT are the talk of the town in legal circles. Despite some high-profile stories of fake ChatGPT-generated citations, many practitioners argue that language models are the way of the future. These models, they argue, promise an efficient source of first drafts and stock language. Others make similar claims about legal writing education, with a number of professors urging the acknowledgment of language models. Others go further and argue that students ought to learn to use these models to improve their writing and prepare for practice. I argue that those urging the incorporation of language models into legal writing education leave out a key technique employed by lawyers across the country: plagiarism. Attorneys have copied from each other, secondary sources, and themselves for decades. While a few brave souls have begun to urge law schools to inform students of this reality and teach them to plagiarize effectively, most schools continue to unequivocally condemn the practice.

I argue that continued condemnation of plagiarism is inconsistent with calls to adopt language models, as the same justifications for incorporating language models into legal writing pedagogy apply with equal or greater force to incorporating plagiarism into legal writing education as well.

This Essay is also a reality check for overhyped claims of language model efficiency and effectiveness. To be sure, a brief generated through a text prompt can be produced much faster than writing something up from scratch. But that’s not how most attorneys actually do things. More often than not, they’re copying from templates, forms, or other preexisting work in a manner similar to adopting the output of a language model to the case at hand. I close with the argument that even if language models and plagiarism may enhance legal writing pedagogy, students should still be taught the foundational skills of legal writing so that they may have the background and deeper understanding needed to use all of their legal writing tools effectively.

Repository Citation

22 U.N.H. L. Rev. 361 (2024).