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Writing Samples

In an initial application, writing samples should be sent only if specifically requested. Many law firms and public interest organizations will request writing samples later in the interview process. However, nearly all judges require a writing sample with the initial clerkship application materials. The best course of action is to have a writing sample ready at every stage of the interview process in case it is requested. In addition to the general discussion below, students are encouraged to refer to Chapter 4 of the Introduction to Career Development Guide for more on choosing a writing sample.

Legal employers typically seek legal analysis in writing samples; therefore, a memorandum or brief is preferred over a research paper. The ultimate criterion, however, is the quality of the writing. If you use a document prepared for a prior employer, you must get the employer’s permission and make sure you have made all necessary modifications and redactions to preserve client confidentiality.

A cover sheet is useful to give any necessary background information about your writing sample. For example, if you use a writing project prepared for class, give the name of the class and a brief description of the assignment. If you are using a document prepared for a former employer, explain that you have obtained the employer’s permission and made all necessary modifications.

Although there is no definitive ideal length for a writing sample, 5-10 pages typically demonstrates your writing ability. If all of your potential writing samples are much longer, consider using an excerpt (e.g., one argument from a longer brief) and provide a brief explanatory note in the form of a cover sheet.