Writing Samples

In an initial application, include a writing sample only if specifically requested. Many employers will request writing samples later in the interview process. Nearly all judges require a writing sample with the initial clerkship application materials. The best course of action is to have a writing sample ready at every stage of the interview process in case it is requested.

Legal employers typically seek legal analysis in writing samples; therefore, a memorandum or brief is preferred over a research paper. In addition, less outside editing is better, which is why previously published pieces are not automatically at the top of the list. Although the topic of the writing sample is generally not much of a concern, if you have a sample that relates to the employer’s work, you may wish to use it. The ultimate criterion, however, is the quality of the writing. If you use a document prepared for a prior employer, obtain the employer’s permission and make sure you have made all necessary modifications and redactions to preserve client confidentiality.

Although there is no definitive ideal length for a writing sample, 5-10 pages typically demonstrates your writing ability. If your writing sample falls within 5-10 pages, single- or double-spaced text is fine (though be sure to check if an employer expresses a preference on this). If your writing sample goes above 10 pages in length (e.g., if an employer specifies a higher page count for applicants’ writing samples), it will generally make sense to double-space the document. If all of your potential writing samples are much longer than 10 pages, and absent particular employer instructions to the contrary, consider using an excerpt (e.g., one argument from a longer brief) and provide a brief explanatory note in the form of a cover sheet.

A cover sheet is useful to give any necessary background information about your writing sample. For example, if you use a writing project prepared for class, give the name of the class and a brief description of the assignment. If you are using a document prepared for a former employer, explain that you have obtained the employer’s permission and made all necessary modifications.

Writing Sample Cover Sheet Examples


In an initial application, include references only if specifically requested. Many employers will request a list of references at some point in the interview process. Students applying for public interest fellowships and judicial clerkships will most likely need to provide letters of recommendation with the initial application materials.  Consult the Public Interest Fellowships and Judicial Clerkships in the U.S. CDO guides for advice on securing letters of recommendation.

A list of references should include the contact information for two or three individuals who can recommend you for employment based on their personal experience with you as a student (preferably as a law student) or as an employee Employers are most interested in references who can discuss you in terms of the skills important for the position, such as legal writing and analysis, ability to assume responsibility, and interpersonal skills. If you ask law school faculty to serve as references, be sure that they know you from class participation, conversations outside of class, or research or other independent work that you performed for them.

Prior to listing someone as a reference, have a frank conversation to be sure that he/she is comfortable with providing you with a strong, positive recommendation. Take the time to talk with them about your career interests as they relate to the employers to which you are applying. In addition, provide them with a copy of your resume so they can become familiar with your background and experience.

Sample List of References


Most VIP employers will ask that you upload a YLS transcript when you bid. Employers request transcripts to view both your grades and your course selections. You should order an official transcript as soon as possible. Official transcripts may be requested online at https://transcript.law.yale.edu/. Transcripts will not be processed for those with holds on their account. While students are able to print their grade history from the SIS website, this is not sufficient for VIP purposes as it does not contain the student's name. Unofficial paper transcripts are unavailable at this time due to staff working remotely. 

Courses are listed on your transcript after the course bidding process closes. For rising second year students, that means that fall courses will be listed on your transcripts until late July after VIP bidding has closed. If you think your course selections may be a selling point to employers, you may wish to send an updated transcript to your VIP firms before your screening interview. A list of recruiting contacts for VIP firms can be found in CMS. 

For additional information about transcripts please consult the Registrar’s website.