Make the most of your writing sample

Many legal employers require a writing sample at some point in the application process. Some may be sent with your resumé, others provided at the interview. Your writing not only allows a potential employer to gauge your analytical and writing skills, but also provides a glimpse into the kind and quality of work product you may turn out at the job. Make the most of this opportunity to showcase your professional writing skills and knowledge on a legal issue or topic. The following are some rules of thumb for writing samples:

1. Provide a legal writing sample. Some examples may include:

  • A memorandum or clean section of a brief you drafted for your legal writing course.
  • A pleading or motion you drafted during an internship or summer associate position at a law firm.
  • A seminar paper on a legal topic that you wrote for a survey course.
  • A client letter you drafted in your clinic. 

2. Be mindful of the tone and content. Stick with analytical writing that showcases your skills in applying the law to the facts or persuasive writing that requires you to argue on the basis of past precedent as it applies to a set of facts.

3. Stay formal and professional in your writing. Don’t use slang, off-color humor or informal language.

4. Proofread and revise as necessary before you send out your sample. Treat the writing sample as you would treat work product on the job. Provide outstanding writing that reflects your best work.

5. If possible, check with the employer about writing sample requirements. Some employers may have a very specific type of sample in mind when they ask you to provide one.

6. Bring a writing sample with you to the interview, even if you haven’t been formally asked for it by the employer. Don’t wait for them to ask you. Be proactive in providing work samples.