Writing Sample Resources
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.
• Judicial Clerkship Writing Samples: Special rules may apply. Please see the Judicial section of the OCPD website at: http://www.wcl.american.edu/career/clerkships/writing_samples.cfm
• 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.
Office of Career & Professional Development • American University Washington College of Law
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