Writing Samples

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.
  • 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.

Contact the Office of Career Services for writing sample examples.