Harvard, Law Reviews, Law Schools, Unemployment

Harvard Law Grad Makes JOLTing Discovery: Accusations of Plagiarism Can Ruin Lives

As a law student, having an article accepted for publication in a law review or journal is usually a great way to ensure that your résumé lands on the top of the enormous stack of papers on the hiring partner’s desk. Having a degree from Harvard Law School is an even better way to do the same thing. But the ultimate claim to success is having both of these things. You’ll get the Biglaw job that you’ve always dreamed of, and a six-figure paycheck to pay off your matching six-figure debt.

Unless you’ve been accused of plagiarism. Then you can kiss all of your dreams goodbye, and say hello to the unemployment line. This is what one recent Harvard Law graduate claims happened to her in a lawsuit against her Ivy league alma mater….

Megon Walker, a 2009 graduate of Harvard Law School, claims that her life was ruined because the school falsely accused her of being a plagiarist. Prior to Harvard’s accusation of plagiarism, Walker was the ultimate gunner: she graduated college at 19, and had a Ph.D. by the time she was 26. But that wasn’t enough, so she applied to the top 16 law schools in the nation, and was admitted to 15 of them. Gunners be gunnin’, yo.

While in law school, Walker volunteered to write an article for the Harvard’s Journal of Law and Technology (JOLT), but due to a computer malfunction, the majority of her draft — and more importantly, her citations — were lost. Walker submitted the incomplete draft nonetheless, with an alleged promise from the student editors of the journal that she would have time to reconstruct her article.

But alas, as anyone who has been on the staff of a law review or journal knows well, student editors can be some real pricks. Courthouse News Service has more:

Megon Walker

Walker says the editors assured her she would have more time to complete the draft and reconstruct the proper source credits, but then excluded her from the rewriting process and treated the unfinished draft as final.

According to the complaint, the editors allotted far less time to editing Walker’s article than they did the other student-authored pieces considered for publication at the time.

Walker claims that [JOLT Editors-in-Chief, Bradley] Hamburger and [Lindsay] Kitzinger lost or destroyed the full-text sources she had hand-delivered to them, and lied about it during the administrative board hearing where they falsely accused her of plagiarizing portions of the unfinished article.

Claiming that the school failed to follow its own rules, Walker says she was found guilty of plagiarism in an unfair hearing.

In her six-count, 37-page Complaint, Walker asks for an injunction preventing HLS from spreading the word about their finding of plagiarism. She also seeks monetary damages, fees and costs, and any other relief the court deems just — but, in truth, Walker just wants a damn job.

Walker had an offer from an unnamed Biglaw firm (we think it might have been Goodwin Procter), but once they found out about the reprimand for plagiarism, it was withdrawn. Since 2009, she’s been rejected from almost every single job she’s applied for. Now all that she’s left with is the shame of being a failed gunner:

She gunned so hard,
And got so far,
But in the end it doesn’t even matter.

Hmph, now Walker knows how the rest of the nation’s recent law school grads feel. It just goes to show that a Harvard Law degree isn’t a cure-all for unemployment.

Walker v. Harvard Complaint [U.S. District Court – District of Massachusetts]
Lawyer Says Plagiarism Label Ruined Her [Courthouse News Service]

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