A resume is a marketing tool and writing sample. Studies show that employers spend about 15 seconds reviewing each one. A strong resume should be well-organized, visually appealing, and have content that is tailored to the prospective employer. Please read through the Resume Anatomy to learn more about the basics of drafting a legal resume. Remember, each individual has different experiences and skill sets to highlight, and the sample resumes are just that - samples to give you further guidance and a visual reference point. For instance, you may use either bullet points or a paragraph format, the latter as long as the narrative is not so dense that it becomes difficult to read. You should consult with an OCPD career counselor for specific deviations or questions. To request an appointment with a counselor, please access CareerLink.
Cover letters, like resumes, give employers a first glimpse of your writing abilities and show that you are a serious, enthusiastic, and qualified candidate. A well-written cover letter should make a positive impression on the employer by compelling them to review your resume and take further action. Therefore, any spelling or grammatical mistakes can overshadow an otherwise impressive resume. Writing an effective cover letter may seem difficult at first, so please visit the Cover Letter Anatomy link for some general guidelines. If you have any questions and would like further guidance, schedule an appointment with a career counselor in OCPD via your CareerLink account.
Cover Letter Resources
- Cover Letter Anatomy
- Sample Cover Letter PD
- Sample Cover Letter - Federal Government
- Sample Cover Letter - Judicial Clerkship
- Sample Cover Letter - Judicial Internship
- Sample Cover Letter - Large Firm (1L Applicant)
- Sample Cover Letter - Large Firm (2L Applicant)
- Sample Cover Letter - Small Firm
- Sample Cover Letter - Non Profit
- Sample Cover Letter - LLM Student for Large International Firms
- Sample Cover Letter - LLM Student for Federal Jobs
Your writing sample should reflect your own work. If you produced a document with another writer (e.g., your appellate brief for Legal Rhetoric), omit the portions the other writer drafted. An "unedited" writing sample is one that has not been substantially edited by any other individual so that it could no longer be considered your own work. Below are additional guidelines to keep in mind for writing samples:
Review of Writing Samples: OCPD does not provide critical review of writing samples. However, career counselors can advise on the size, style, and type of sample that should be submitted. For a formal review of a potential writing sample, you may contact the Legal Rhetoric Program.
Length of Writing Sample: Ask the employer’s preferred length. Absent such guidance, 5-10 pages is typically sufficient.
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 style of writing (e.g., an administrative law memorandum 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 underling 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 a few sentences.
Type of Writing Sample: Ideally, you can offer an employer a variety of samples from which to choose. Absent such direction or repertoire, any of the following may be appropriate:
Legal Rhetoric 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—these may include published articles and law review articles. As above, the emphasis here should be on providing a sample of your legal analytical and writing skills.
Blogs—speak with a career counselor before offering to submit your blog postings in relation to either your resume or as a writing sample.
Writing Resources Sample
References are people who know you professionally or academically and can attest to your skills, knowledge, professionalism, and work experience. Law school professors and supervisors from past and/or present employers make the best references. Do not use family members or social acquaintances. List a maximum of three references, but no fewer than two. Please see the Reference Sheet Anatomy link for a sample reference sheet.
Thank you letters should be sent via email or hardcopy as soon as possible following each interview. During the Fall OCI season, a thank you letter is not typically expected after a screening interview, but students should consider sending one to their top-choice employers. Thank you letters, like cover letters and resumes, must be error free. If you interviewed with more than one person, it is best to send each one an individual thank you letter. Try to make each letter distinctive by mentioning one thing specific to that interview(er) and reiterate your interest in that position. If for some reason you are unable to send a letter to each interviewer, you may send one letter to the primary interviewer and ask that s/he share your thanks with the others.
Thank You Letter Resources