Writing Sample Tips
Writing Sample Tips
Employers frequently request that law students provide them with a writing sample. A writing sample is simply a sample of your written legal work. In preparing your materials, consider your potential options for a writing sample and think critically about which best represents your writing abilities.
For first year students, the first-year memo represents the best writing sample to use. For upper classman, a work product from your summer employment or clinic experience is ideal. PLEASE NOTE: you must obtain permission from your employer prior to using any work documents. You must change names and other pertinent facts as well as indicate that permission was granted for you to use this document. A cover sheet submitted with your writing sample is the place to provide such information.
When submitting a writing sample, there are guidelines that you should follow. The writing sample should be:
- Your BEST example of your analytical skills and writing abilities
- Completely error-free
- Approximately 10 pages in length
- Solely your work
If your document was created with a partner, you may submit a portion of the document that solely your work. On your cover sheet, explain that the full document was created in conjunction with a partner, the partner’s portion has been excised, and the portion provided is exclusively your work. You may also provide a short synopsis of omitted, joint material that would help the reader orient him/herself to the issues (for example, a short restatement of the fact pattern).
After selecting your writing sample, review the checklist below to ensure that you have an excellent legal writing product. Have you:
- corrected any typographical errors, grammatical mistakes or word omissions?
- carefully checked all cites?
- clearly articulated the issue?
- presented each topic clearly and concisely?
- conducted sufficient research, keeping track of your sources?
- followed a logical structure, with no obvious gaps?
Consider meeting with the professor or supervisor who assigned you the project. Let them know that you are thinking about using your work as a writing sample. Ask them if they feel this is your best piece and indicative of your abilities. If applicable, ask permission to use the piece. Solicit any advice they may have for improving the document.
FINAL NOTE: Occasionally, employers will ask for an “unedited” sample of your writing. For this reason, it is wise to retain a copy of the “final” draft that was submitted to your professor or supervisor and not only a version that reflects edits made after grading or made by a supervisor before submission to a court.