Many prospective employers want to see a legal writing sample and will use the sample to evaluate your ability to effectively research and analyze a legal issue. When it comes to a writing sample, the overriding consideration is that it be your very best work and that it reveal your ability to clearly analyze case law or a statutory scheme in a clear, concise manner. Many employers consider a writing sample to be indicative of your potential as a lawyer.
- The writing sample should be error free. No spelling, grammar or punctuation errors. PROOFREAD. You may lose a job due to a sloppy writing sample.
- The writing sample should be 5-10 pages in length. If the writing sample that you want to use is long, you may use an excerpt (e.g., one argument from a brief) and submit it with an explanatory note that outlines the facts so that the reader can immediately grasp the subject matter. See Examples below.
- The writing sample should be your own work, substantially unedited by anyone else. For example, employers know that law review articles are edited extensively, so avoid use of such documents.
- Any document that demonstrates your ability to analyze a legal issue is a good choice for a writing sample. Legal research and writing papers, legal briefs, legal memos, moot court briefs or seminar papers are all appropriate writing samples.
- A legal brief or memo prepared for an employer is also an excellent writing sample. You must, however, get your employer's permission to use the document and you must redact any confidential material. You may rename the party to protect confidentiality (e.g., "ABC Corporation" or "firm name" or "client name") and to maintain readability, but you should inform the reader of the change by providing a brief explanatory note.
- Create a cover sheet for the writing sample. It is recommended that you use the heading/letterhead that matches your resume and cover letter and center the title "Writing Sample" at the top of the document. Use the cover sheet to give necessary background information about the writing sample. For example, give the name of the class, a brief description of the assignment and if the assignment contained any forced limitations (e.g., the type of research allowed, the side of the argument you had to take). If you are excerpting from a longer document, add whatever background is necessary to make the excerpt understandable. Add a header or footer with your name to all pages of your writing sample. See Cover Sheet Examples below.
- Your writing sample may be submitted on regular, photo copy quality paper.
- Bring a copy of your writing sample to every interview. You do not have to submit a writing sample until it is requested, but you want to be prepared in the event that a potential employer requests it.
Writing Sample Cover Sheet Examples
- I am attaching a copy of a memo on trademark infringement that I prepared in conjunction with the Saint Louis University School of Law's Trademark Course. This memo was prepared in October, 2012 and updated in August, 2012.
- Attached is a copy of an argument section of my Spring, 2012 Moot Court brief on constitutional free speech guarantees. I wrote the attached section. My partner wrote the facts and subsequent sections of the brief. Please contact me if you would like a copy of the entire brief.
- The attached copy of a memo that I drafted for XYZ Law Firm where I worked during the Summer of 2012. I redacted the name of the client and inserted "Client's Name" to maintain the readability of the document. My supervising attorney, Ben Simon, granted permission to me to use this as a writing sample.