Some legal employers (including judges hiring judicial clerks) require applicants to submit writing samples. It is not necessary for you to submit a writing sample unless one has been requested. If you do submit a sample, consider the following guidelines:
- The sample must be your own original work product. Do not submit a document that has been edited or written by someone else. If your sample has multiple sections, some of which were authored by others, identify the sections that contain your own work.
- Select a sample that you believe represents your best work. Employers will review your writing for your ability to research and analyze legal issues, and to write clearly and persuasively.
- Research memomoranda and moot court briefs are the best types of work product to use for writing samples. You can use papers you submitted as part of your classwork requirements (for example, LARC and appellate advocacy). If you use a memorandum or brief you prepared for an employer or a court as part of a clerkship or internship, you should obtain permission from the employer. If you get permission to use the work product as a writing sample for other employers, you must also be sure to take steps (such as redaction and changing names to generic, non-identifiable names, etc.) to preserve privileges, confidentiality, and privacy rights of any individuals or entities identified in the original work. You should confirm with your previous employer that you have adequately protected privileged, confidential, and private information.
- Follow the prospective employer's requirements for length of the writing sample. If the employer has not been specific about length, submit a sample that is 5 to 10 pages long. You can submit an excerpt from a longer document, but include a complete section or subsection, and don't cut off an argument or a complete thought. Remember that the employer is evaluating your ability to present a cogent legal analysis or argument, so be sure that whatever you submit is complete.
- Attach a cover page with a brief description of any necessary background information, such as the nature of the assignment, that you have obtained employer permission for use and have changed names and other identifying information, and whether the sample is an excerpt from a longer work.