Where does one mine for an effective writing sample? Class papers or portions thereof tend to be the most often-submitted writing samples. Other professional experiences that can yield writing samples are teaching assistant or research positions with law professors, participation on journals, pro bono research assignments, and clinical and intern/extern projects.
- As you select your writing sample, try to pick something that is substantively in line with the work the specific public interest organization does. If you don’t have a writing sample close to the topic of the public interest job, then choose something that is centered on social justice issues. If possible, submit something that demonstrates you are like-minded with the employer and care about public interest work.
- If you have nothing with a public interest bent, pick your overall strongest writing sample or a sample that is functionally related to the organization’s work (a brief for an advocacy organization, a memo for a policy-oriented organization, etc.).
- As with any other writing sample, do not go over the suggested page limit dictated by the employer. If you need to cut down a writing sample to fit within the page limit, consider eliminating one issue and then cutting down the facts to include only those pertinent to the issues you will be including. The fact pattern should be the slimmest part of the writing sample, as issue analysis is the most important content to the employer. If no page limit is dictated by the employer, submit a writing sample that is 5-7 pages. Unless specifically requested by an employer, a writing sample should never exceed 10 pages.
See CPD’s Preparing Materials section on Writing Samples for more general information.