CCH Newsletters for Law Students

CCH Canada was kind enough to let me write a column in their monthly e-newsletter for Canadian law students. I had not realized though that it was possible to get a free archive of these (and other CCH newsletters) online and to register to receive them. The articles (not mine!) are quite good and I assume (or hope) that students can benefit from the newsletters.

My column last month was entitled “Managing Legal Knowledge: KM Demystified.” Although most of my columns focused on legal research, I thought it important to introduce students to formal law-related KM since – unless they summered at a large firm – they would in most cases not have been taught or exposed to knowledge management in law school despite many of them (informally) engaging in KM throughout law school through the sharing of course summaries, online chatting (even during class!) and the like.

An example I like to use when explaining KM to law students is to imagine the following scenario (of course keeping in mind prohibitions against academic plagiarism): What if at law school you had easy (online) access to every course summary, your professor’s notes and slides, past exams and model form answers, all essays written by all law students organized by topic and course, etc. This sharing of knowledge (not appropriate in an academic setting due to plagiarism concerns) starts to mirror what most law firms are trying to do and is a good example of leveraging the sharing of knowledge.

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Comments

  1. The Globe had a story today about a Ryerson student who is being disciplined for putting a class assignment on Facebook. Is this or is this not like an in-person study group? How thorough do the contributions of ideas have to be before it’s not the students’ individual work any more – and is that close to plagiarism or just not doing the work individually as the assignment required?

  2. Thanks John G. The recent Ryerson incident is interesting and raises the issue that technology makes it both easier to potentially “cheat” but also to be “caught” (and to be clear, I express no opinion on the Ryerson incident since I do not have all of the facts).

    In law school, there tends to be little “group” work and hence less opportunities for plagiarism between fellow students to arise since most evaluation is based on either 100% exams or on quite individualized essay topics.

    However, in law practice, sharing of information is encouraged since, although “knowledge is power” still applies, “sharing knowledge” in a law firm can be even more powerful. Since lawyers are not graded on an academic basis, sharing between lawyers is a good thing.

    Note: at one point I had planned a journal article on this topic; as part of that research, I recall uncovering a few American decisions where lawyers were sanctioned or disbarred by their bar associations for plagiarizing treatises in their court “briefs” without any attribution to the treatise. As such, it appears this aspect of plagiarism could still happen to lawyers.

    To be honest, I never understand why someone would plagiarize since “standing on the shoulders of giants” by citing the best opinions or ideas gives credence to your work.