A little (alleged) plagiarism never hurt anybody

by Vault Law Editors | May 14, 2010

  • My Vault

Above the Law today congratulates Georgetown law student Kaavya Viswanathan (“a/k/a the Alleged Harvard Plagiarist”) on landing a summer associate position at Sullivan & Cromwell. Viswanathan has already achieved a measure of fame, first as a high school student who landed a lucrative book contract, and later, as a Harvard college student whose novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, was widely criticized as a product of plagiarism. While the scandal may have put an end to her movie deal, it doesn’t seem to have damaged her career prospects. As David Lat writes:

That Viswanthan was able to land on her feet — actually, not just land on her feet, but land a job many law students would (literally) kill for — is encouraging. It just goes to show that it takes a lot, far more than most people realize, to sink someone’s career or ruin her life. People forgive, and people forget.

“Encouraging” is hardly the word I’d use. I’m not saying that youthful transgressions shouldn’t be forgiven or that Viswanathan shouldn’t be able to pursue a legal career; but it’s hard to believe that, in this incredibly tight job market, one of the best law firms in the country couldn’t find another candidate with academic credentials at least as good as Viswanathan’s who didn’t (allegedly) lie, cheat or steal her way into celebrity. Even if her admitted and extensive borrowings from other writers really were “completely unintentional and unconscious,” as she has claimed, they suggest a rather pronounced lack of care. Back in 2006, Viswanthan told , “I really thought the words were my own. I guess it’s just been in my head. I feel as confused as anyone about it, because it happened so many times.”

Now that’s the kind of lawyer I’d like to hire.

- posted by vera

Filed Under: Law

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