Choosing the Best Writing Sample

Writing samples are an important part of your submission materials when applying for a job, and should therefore be vetted appropriately.  Often times, attorneys focus so intently on getting their resumes in perfect shape, that they forget the value of a strong writing sample.  While some law firms won’t require a writing sample immediately, all litigation attorneys interviewing for law firm positions will eventually need to provide at least one writing sample.  How to prepare? Here are a few tips:

  • What to provide. A litigation attorney should provide a brief or motion already filed in state or federal court. Make sure to check local rules and regulations to ensure that you are not breaking any confidentiality requirements.  If so, you may want to redact certain information or just choose another sample.  Providing a memo or an article doesn’t showcase the same skillset.  While the content may be interesting, you should in this instance provide two writing samples so that you are still highlighting your advocacy and analytical skills.
  • What should the sample highlight? Writing samples that show analysis of a complex issue are the best.  Moreover, your statement of facts should be clear and concise and your conclusion strong.  Know your audience — if you are applying to a firm with a specialized practice, try to find a sample that would be most similar to the types of cases they handle.  If you are applying to a firm that focuses on federal court litigation, find a sample filed in federal court.
  • What if more than one person worked on this writing sample? That’s okay! Most attorneys do not practice on an island, so most briefs and motions have been reviewed and edited by at least two people.  Your level of seniority will surely impact how much your work has been edited.  You should submit a writing sample for which you assumed primary writing responsibility.
  • How long should my writing sample be? Ideally, a writing sample should be 10 – 20 pages long. If all of your briefs and motions are longer, consider using only one or two sections that stand out.  If you go this route, you will need to include some type of summary about the case, so the reader understands what the case is about and can put the sample in context.
  • If you have received a ruling, include it. For this reason, you should try to find a brief or motion where you won all or some of your claims. When submitting your writing sample (either directly or through a recruiter) make sure you provide this information.  It can be a great talking point during an interview.
  • Fix any typos or sentence fragments. Even though your brief or motion has already been filed, you should proofread the entire thing again.  Make sure to fix any typos, fragments, misspellings or formatting issues.  Just because you filed it with a few errors doesn’t mean you need to keep those errors in the document when submitting it as a writing sample.

Writing samples are generally required, so you are hereby on notice.  Make sure you spend the time to find the sample that best showcases your skill set.  Take the time to prepare now, and you won’t be scrambling come interview time.

 


Contact Denise Schwartz or Eynav Epstein at EpsteinSchwartz Legal Search to learn more, to discuss the legal market or to hear about current opportunities.

EpsteinSchwartz Legal Search is a Chicago-based boutique legal recruiting firm. EpsteinSchwartz does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, sex, sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic. All inquiries will be kept strictly confidential.