Make Your Clerkship Application Shine: Writing Sample

Hand with pencilPutting together a writing sample can be difficult.

What Should I Use?

Reasonable people disagree about:

  • how long the writing sample should be (opinions on ideal length range from 4-5 pages to 25-30)
  • what type of writing it should be (legal brief, seminar paper, journal work, etc.).

Showcase Your Best Work

Ultimately, a good writing sample will showcase your best work, however you choose to define the concept.

It should go without saying that the writing must be yours, so a heavily edited journal article is inappropriate (but the version you submitted for editing would be fine).

You should ensure that your writing sample is no longer than necessary – it is perfectly acceptable to send an excerpt from a longer paper along with a brief synopsis of the whole.

The writing sample need not be academic work, but you should get permission to use work done for a summer job or internship, and you might be asked to change or edit portions to protect client confidentiality.

Is This Going to Offend Someone?

As with the activities listed on your résumé, the topic and content of your writing sample can reveal your ideological leanings. If you are comfortable having judges screen your application after reading about your views on sexual orientation-based asylum claims, by all means send your favorite seminar paper (I did).

If, however, you’d prefer not to eliminate yourself from consideration with certain judges, it might be wise to use a paper on a less sensitive topic.

How to Make Every Part of Your Clerkship Application Shine

Return to Judicial Clerkships 101.

Debating which writing sample to use? Leave questions in the comments!

Image by FOTOCROMO via stock.xchng.


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