Writing Samples

The formal “writing sample” itself can be approximately five to ten pages long, should highlight your legal analysis skills, and be a carefully polished, error-free piece. While most employers do not require a writing sample initially, they will inevitably want a strong example of your legal research and writing abilities at some point in the recruiting process.

LL.M. students often face the greatest challenge in providing a legal writing sample, given their limited experience with legal research and writing. Here are some suggestions for a writing sample:

  • Ask the prospective employer specifically what they are looking for regarding writing samples. They may waive the writing requirement or express a willingness to review a writing sample developed as an undergraduate.
  • If you are considering using a writing sample developed during employment, you should first obtain the employer’s permission to use it. Names of parties, docket numbers and any other identifying items that would violate confidentiality should be redacted.
  • Consider using materials developed in your Legal Research and Writing Class. Carefully review and edit these materials before offering them to an employer.
  • Check in with the Georgetown Law Writing Center for advice on sprucing up your writing sample. The advisors in GCPD can provide some basic advice on writing samples, but does not review writing samples as a matter of policy.  The Writing Center may be able to help you by reviewing your writing sample more thoroughly.
  • Start the process early! Do not try to edit your writing sample the night before your interview.

Your writing sample should include a cover page. Include your name and contact information on the cover page. You should also include why and when you wrote the sample – e.g., for a legal research and writing course, as part of a memorandum for an employer, for a particular journal. (If you redraft an earlier effort, you should explain that, e.g. “based on a memorandum I wrote in our first year writing program in Spring 2016”.) If your writing sample has been accepted for publication, be sure to indicate that. Also, note if you omitted certain sections of the sample for length reasons. If you remove the facts section, you should include a very brief statement of the relevant facts (no more than a few sentences). In additional to our high-level overview here, please refer to the Career Manual distributed at Orientation for a detailed discussion of writing samples.  For guidance in drafting your writing sample cover page, we recommend you review our example of a writing sample cover page.

Transcripts

Many employers will request a transcript as part of the application process. For the vast majority of these requests, an unofficial transcript is acceptable. The easiest way to submit an unofficial transcript is to sign into your MyAccess account and save your transcript as a PDF document. You can also take an official transcript and scan it to create an unofficial transcript; however, this process can cause problems as the document tends to be large in size and can overwhelm email systems.

If you find that you need an official transcript, you must contact the Registrar’s office. A transcript can be requested in person, by fax, via mail or by emailing the Registrar’s Office. There is no charge for a transcript being sent directly to a State Bar and transcripts sent to a third party have a $7.25 cost per transcript.

References

We recommend having a list of three to four references. They can be a combination of law school/undergrad professors and/or employers. We would not recommend using a personal reference (e.g., your next door neighbor growing up) unless that person can also attest to knowing you in a professional or educational setting. Before listing your references, make sure that you ask each individual to serve as a reference and keep them apprised of your job search activity.  In addition, it is helpful to provide each reference with:

  • an updated copy of your resume
  • a representative cover letter or personal statement
  • a list of the courses you have taken or a description of the tasks you completed as a research assistant (for academic references)
  • a brief description of the projects you performed while employed at his/her organization (for employer references)

For an example of how to format your list of references, we recommend you review our sample reference list.

Thank You Notes

Thank you notes should be sent as soon as possible after an interview or informational interview. It is not necessary to send a thank you to each individual with whom you interviewed, unless you can personalize each thank you note by mentioning briefly something unique which you discussed with each person. Instead, send one thank you note to the recruitment coordinator, if the employer has one, asking him or her to thank each person with whom you met. You should send your thank you notes within 24 hours of your interview, if at all possible. We recommend you review our sample thank you notes for additional guidance.