A writing sample is a document that demonstrates your research, writing and analytical skills in a technical legal area and your ability to write well in English. You may wish to submit a writing sample that is not in the area of practice to which you are applying, but it should nonetheless illustrate the skill set relevant to the position. For example, if you are applying for a tax associate position, a writing sample on a technical corporate or banking law issue would be acceptable, but a writing sample focusing on a human rights issue is not ideal.
The ideal writing sample is the first six to 10 pages of a research paper you prepared for one of your Georgetown Law classes. If you have a lengthy writing sample, you should select an appropriate excerpt. This needs to be self-contained, and it should generally include some factual background, some legal analysis of case law or regulation and some form of conclusion. Other acceptable writing samples include an expanded and polished take-home exam paper for one of your Georgetown Law classes (you should also include the exam question), and some employers suggest that students could take a question from a recent exam, prepare an answer and present it as their writing sample.
You may also provide a research memorandum prepared by you for your previous employer. If you choose to do this, remember to obtain permission from your previous employer beforehand. You also need to delete names and other identifiers, and should discuss this with your previous employer before you submit the piece as your writing sample. You may also need permission from the client. Just remember that a writing sample should be your own work. Writing samples should appear on regular heavy bond paper, but we recommend that you print the cover page in stationery that matches your resume and cover letter.
Whatever writing sample you select, remember to attach a cover page, which should include:
- A description of the document's use when you drafted it
- A statement ensuring that it is your own work
- The grade you received for it, if it is a Georgetown Law research or exam paper
- A statement that you obtained permission before providing it and, ideally, the name and contact details of the partner who granted that permission (if it is a research memorandum from your previous employer)
It is important to reiterate once again that all of your written materials serve as "writing samples" for prospective employers. Your resume, cover letter, reference list, thank you letters and formal writing sample should all be carefully drafted, edited and proofread. Typographical, spelling or grammatical errors in any of these materials will often result in rejection.