Have you ever been tempted to use paid essay writing services during law school? If that is the case, beware that the government has plans to trigger essay mills’ final countdown. 

Essay Mills in a Nutshell

‘Essay mills’ is the encapsulating term for the roughly 1,000 UK-based ‘organisation[s] or website[s] that sell essays (pieces of writing done at school, college, or university work) written for students’, as outlined by the Cambridge English Dictionary. The principle behind such enterprises is that they accommodate customer directions as to the overall settings of an essay in return for a piece of written work charged a certain amount per page. Essay writing services usually operate under a chain, whereby the customer submits an essay request to the essay writing company, which then usually forwards the task to a freelance writer.

The Government’s Response

While paid essay writing is yet to be criminalised in practice, this occurrence is likely to become a reality if the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill successfully undergoes all stages of statute creation in the bicameral UK legislature. Currently, the Bill is still under scrutiny, having passed the first and second readings, Committee stage, Report stage and third reading in the House of Lords, but has only advanced to the Report stage in the lower legislative chamber, the date for which is due to be announced.

Section 27(1) of the Bill sets displays the full scope of the offence: ‘It is an offence for a person to provide, or arrange for another person to provide, in commercial circumstances, a relevant service for a student in relation to a relevant assignment.’ Following its explanation in section 26(2) of the Bill, a ‘relevant service’ is defined as ‘a service of completing all or part of an assignment 15 on behalf of a student where the assignment completed in that way could not reasonably be considered to have been completed personally by the student.’ Breaching this will be punished with ramifications in the form of liability ‘on summary conviction to a fine’ as indicated by section 27(2).

The provisional measures were justified by Alex Burghart, the present Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, who commented that ‘Essay mills are completely unethical and profit by undermining the hard work most students do. We are taking steps to ban these cheating services.’ A government press release indicated that the standard of academic integrity and post-16 higher education will be enhanced, provided that essay mills are slashed as a precaution to safeguard against ‘the deceptive marketing techniques of contract cheating services’.

Lessons to be Learned

After everything said, is it worth paying for legal essays? Even before the new legislation that is to be enacted, essay mill services notoriously led to many students entering the abyss of academic fraud and plagiarism, resulting in expulsion from law school. So, do you still have any creeping thoughts about engaging in a provisionally criminal activity?