When an employer asks for a writing sample, they are asking for an unedited writing sample, e.g. one that has not been substantially edited by another person. Your writing sample needs to reflect your own work. If you produced a document with another writer (e.g., your appellate brief for Legal Research and Writing), omit the portions the other writer drafted.
Below are additional guidelines to keep in mind for writing samples:
- Review of Writing Samples: Career Services does not provide critical review of writing samples. For a formal review of a potential writing sample, you may contact the Legal Research and Writing professors.
- Length of Writing Sample: Each writing sample submitted should be no less than 5 and no more than 12 pages in length, unless otherwise indicated by the employer.
- Writing Style: Unless otherwise directed, a traditional legal writing sample should demonstrate superior legal analysis, advocacy (where appropriate), perfect grammar, and formal use of a recognized legal citation method. Whenever possible, try to match the writing sample style and content to that of the employer’s mission and everyday style of writing (e.g., an administrative law memo for a federal agency application or a policy review paper for think tank).
Cover Sheet: A cover sheet is recommended, but should always be used when submitting only a section of a larger piece (e.g., the entire eight-page argument of a much longer brief) or when providing useful context to the sample by explaining the assignment or a position you were assigned to advocate. If a few facts are needed to put your argument in context, they can be included in an explanation that should be no longer than three sentences.
Type of Writing Sample: Any of the following may be appropriate:
- Legal Research & Writing Appellate Brief: Submit only an analytical section of the brief, and attach a cover sheet (see above)
- Actual Work Product—from your job, an externship or clinic, for example. In doing so, obtain approval from your supervisor to use the work product and to redact all confidential information.
- Scholarly Work—published articles, law reviews, for example. As above, the emphasis here should be on providing a sample of your legal analytical and writing skills.