As law school resumes later this month, students think about the high cost of a legal education (as you should), and professors think about the increased rate of plagiarism (as we should). Plagiarism may be a generational "thing," as today's story in the New York Times suggests (see here), but--like other generational "things" (anyone remember disco?)--the fact that it's "generational" doesn't make it right.
Using someone else's work and passing it off as your own is theft, pure and simple. (The fact that one of my heroes, Lucy Kellaway, has admitted to some plagiarism in her Financial Times column this week has caused me great consternation, even though it was her alter ego, Martin Lukes, who committed the plagiarism.)
The best explanation of what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it is still the explanation provided by the writing program at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville's College of Law's Writing Standards in Law School (see here). Read it. Learn it. Use it.