How to Avoid Plagiarism in Legal Documentation?: Top 5 ways
By Trinity Hanson, Last updated: 2023-01-09 (originally published on 2022-11-07)
Legal documents such as privacy policies of companies are not supposed to be copied. Practitioners of law usually have to use a lot of templates and forms when they are writing briefs or policies.
It is not considered plagiarism when such forms are used, because it is understood that writing the same forms many times is not feasible. However, lawyers are also expected to change these templates to fit their cases. If this is not done then it is considered wrong.
Plagiarism in legal writing is when lawyers start copying the altered and amended templates of other lawyers without their permission. This is extremely illegal and the perpetrator can be sued by the victim.
A common case of legal plagiarism is privacy policies. Companies that work in the same niche have very similar privacy policies. However, they have individual differences that set them apart. If such documents get plagiarized then that opens the door to legal repercussions. That’s why it is very important to avoid plagiarism.
Here’s how you can avoid it in your legal documentation:
Top 5 Methods of Avoiding Plagiarism
These five tips will help you to write unique legal documents.
1. Keep Notes of Your Information
When writing a legal document, lawyers need to refer to information that is related to the specific case they are working on. Apart from that, lawyers can rely on reference material as well. All information that is taken from the reference and materials and the case should be accounted for.
An effective way to do that is to keep notes of each source you use. The notes should detail which information came from which material. That way when you are writing the draft, you can ensure that all the information that is not attributed to yourself is properly cited.
2. Give Credit Where Required
Sometimes it is not possible to completely avoid copying others or using their work. In that case, there is one thing that can avoid plagiarism. That is to credit the original author for their work.
It is acceptable to use other people’s work as long as you properly credit them. Some ways of crediting are:
- Using Quotes
- Giving Citations
- Providing a link to the source
You should use the methods that best suit the given situation.
3. Do not Copy-Paste Anything
One surefire method of plagiarizing is to copy-paste content from another source. That is not a good method of writing legal documents. As we mentioned in the introduction, lots of legal documents have similar content. Forms and templates are used by many lawyers because they save them a lot of time and effort.
However, we also stated that all such forms need to be modified by the lawyer to fit the situation. If no editing is done and the template is copied and used as is, then that also counts as plagiarism.
4. Check for Plagiarism
While one can definitely try to avoid plagiarism, there is a fair chance that accidental plagiarism occurs due to a coincidence. It is impossible to detect this kind of plagiarism, and the only way to deal with it reliably is with a free plagiarism checker which is reliable and efficient. A plagiarism-checking tool can find out if your content is duplicated from another source. The best tools can even give you links to all the sources with matching content.
If you are worried that the tools will pick up the template parts as plagiarism, then worry not. Most tools have an “Exclude URL” option that allows you to remove certain sources from the checking process. You can add the links to the form pages to avoid getting your content checked against them.
5. Edit if Necessary
If you do end up finding plagiarism in your work during proofreading, then there is no choice but to remove it.
You can deal with plagiarism in two ways:
- The plagiarized parts are completely removed
- The duplicated parts are rewritten
The first approach is not very good for legal documents as removing parts of the text can have unintended side effects. This is due to the sensitive nature of legal documents where each word is very significant. That’s why rewriting them is usually better as it allows you to write something unique and still make sense.
Avoiding plagiarism in legal documentation is very important. If a judge realizes that a document is not drafted by a lawyer, then they can penalize him/her. The penalties can vary, but for lawyers, reputation is very important. Getting penalized can hurt that reputation very much. So, utilize these five tips to avoid plagiarism when writing legal documents.