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During the time you are being considered for employment, some law firms will ask to see samples of some of your writing. The idea behind this is that the sample will permit the firm to evaluate both your ability to express yourself clearly in writing and your capacity for analyzing legal problems.
The job candidate should view the request for a writing sample as a positive development. It often indicates serious interest on the part of a firm, and it gives candidates the chance to show their talents. If provided before an interview, the writing sample may also provide a basis for give-and-take conversations with attorneys interested in the subject of your writing.
Writing samples can also sabotage one's job prospects. Too many candidates are unprepared for this request. They have nothing in their files, which really shows their capabilities. This is especially true for many law students who only have memos from legal writing courses to offer.
A bit of advance planning can pay big dividends. It is best to assume that you will be asked to provide a sample of your writing. If you don't have anything suitable, take steps to develop something that will enhance rather than retard your job prospects. Sign up for law review, participate in moot court programs utilizing student-prepared briefs, or enroll in a seminar requiring a paper.
Don't worry too much about the subject of your writing sample. But do worry about having a product that reflects your abilities. Producing such a sample will be well worth your time and energies. You might also seek feedback from someone who knows what a law firm looks for in a writing sample.
In any event, have something ready so you won't find yourself staying up late the night before it's due.
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