Assistant Director for Professional Development
Many recent law graduates (and 2L/3L students) struggle with deciding which writing sample to provide prospective employers. The following tips should make it easier to choose:
- Most employers prefer samples written as part of a law school internship or post-graduate position. Be sure to redact sensitive information and let the previous or current legal employer know that you may be submitting all or part of such a document as a writing sample.
- If you don't have such a writing sample, consider writing a memorandum on a topic of interest to you or the potential employer. An unresolved area of the law is always a good topic to write about. Consider doing an informational interview with an attorney knowledgeable about the topic. This will provide you with valuable input for your memo, and another contact for your professional network and a possible mentor.
- Submit a document that is short in length. How short is short? If an employer does not specify length, 5 to 10 pages (at most) is a good rule of thumb. What if a potential employer wants a writing sample of less than 5 pages? Remember that the sample is to show the employer how well you can write when presenting legal arguments. (Your cover letter illustrates how well you can write a business document.) Thus, feel free to provide only a section or sections of a legal document to comply with page requirements, but be sure to explain this in a prefatory note.
- The writing sample, just like your cover letter and resume, should be easy to read - short and succinct sentences should be your mantra. This CEB video by Julie Brook provides helpful suggestions on how to do this:
The Continuing Education of the Bar blog spells out the secret to making any legal writing stronger.