Writing samples are an integral part of the application process for nearly every lawyer position out there. This holds true no matter if you’re fresh out of law school or a seasoned practicing attorney. If this is the case then, why not work to ensure you submit the best writing sample that you possibly can. In almost 30 years of experience in placing attorneys in rewarding positions, we’ve seen many writing samples – good and bad. Below are a few tips to make sure you fall into the “good” category.
Choose the Right One
When applying for a job, a lawyer must choose a writing sample that shows how well he can communicate via the written word. In general, these samples should:
- Showcase the attorney’s ability to write effectively;
- Speak directly to the position being applied for; and,
- Remain in the 5-10-page range (unless stated otherwise in the job description).
For new law school graduates, examples of great writing samples include a:
- Memorandum from a clerkship or summer job;
- Portion of a moot court brief;
- Portion of a motion, or other legal document, that was written for a legal writing course;
- Law journal article; or
- Seminar paper.
For seasoned attorneys, they should use their best judgment when submitting a writing sample. At the very least, it should be:
- Appropriate in terms of length; and,
- Be of a nature that is consistent with the job being applied for.
Proofread, Proofread, and Proofread
Lawyers never want to submit a writing sample that has errors or mistakes. This will do zero in terms of helping to land a job. Thus, to help prevent this, an attorney should always review a sample before submitting one. This holds true even if he/she has submitted it in the past.
Things to look for are:
- Inconsistent, ineffective or unclear language; and,
- Wrong citations.
Employer and client confidences must get protected in all writing samples. What does this exactly mean? For licensed attorneys, make certain that all client-identifying information gets changed or deleted. Further, if a lawyer wrote a document for a past employer, he should ask that employer for permission to submit the document as a writing sample – before submitting it. If a lawyer does not know whether or not a document contains confidential information, he should ask a colleague for help.
Include a Cover Page
It is important for lawyers to include a cover page with their writing sample. This page should contain the following information:
- The lawyer’s name and contact information;
- The circumstances or facts surrounding why the document was drafted;
- The date the document was created or submitted; and
- Whether or not the sample was edited by another person.
Resumes and cover letters play a gigantic role when it comes to applying for a legal position. But attorneys can never underestimate the power of a writing sample. Prospective employers never do. In reality, they weigh them heavily and even use them to forecast an attorney’s performance in other areas of the position being applied for. Thus, keep the above tips in mind and always submit a sample that is effective, clear and error-free. If you have questions along the way, never hesitate to contact us. We’re always here to help!