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Writing Samples, References & Transcripts


  • Be prepared with a writing sample at the start of the application process
  • Include a writing sample with your initial application materials only if requested
  • Submit a writing sample when asked, often during interview process
  • Note for clerkship applicants: include a writing sample with your initial application materials and be prepared to submit a second writing sample during the interview process


  • Select a writing sample which illustrates high quality legal research, writing, and analytical skills
  • Pick a document which best demonstrates your current skill set
  • Choose a sample with as little editing by others as possible
  • For a published work, send an early, unedited draft
  • Do not concern yourself with the topic of the writing sample


  • Follow the employer’s directions
  • Default length: 5-10 pages (7-15 for clerkship applications)
  • Single or double spaced equally acceptable
  • Select a section of a longer document, if needed, to remain within range

Important Procedures for Employer Documents

  • Obtain the employer’s permission if you use a document prepared for an employer
  • Follow employer’s directions to modify
  • Redact to preserve client confidentiality

Cover Sheet

  • Attach a cover sheet to your sample
  • Provides necessary background and identifies document clearly for busy reader
  • Explain extent of editing by others
  • Describe other aspects of document, if using an excerpt
  • For class assignment
    • Include name of the class and a brief description of the assignment
  • For employer document
    • Note that you have obtained the employer’s permission
    • Discuss modifications and redactions

Writing Sample Cover Sheet Examples

List of References


  • Include a list of references with your initial application materials only if requested
  • List three individuals
    • who have direct experience with you as a law student or as an employee
    • who can discuss your skills, especially legal research, writing and analysis; ability to assume responsibility; and interpersonal skills
  • Examples
    • Law school faculty are a good choice if they know you through
      • class participation
      • conversations outside of class
      • research or other independent work
      • clinic participation
    • Small group professor is a typical choice for first-year students
    • Legal employer or pre-law school employer who directly supervised you
    • Undergraduate professor (least preferred, and only appropriate for first-year students in the fall semester)

Communicate with your Referees

  • Have a frank conversation prior to listing someone as a reference
  • Describe your career interests as they relate to the employers to which you are applying
  • Provide them with a copy of your resume
  • Be sure that they are comfortable providing you a strong, positive recommendation

Recommendation Letters

  • Recommendation letters are not required by most employers
  • Exceptions:
    • Post-graduate fellowships
    • Post-graduate clerkships
  • Review CDO fellowship and clerkship guides for advice on securing letters of recommendation

Sample List of References