Some employers ask that a writing sample be submitted with other application materials, and some ask that it be sent later. In any case, you should have a writing sample ready at all times and bring a copy to every interview. Your writing sample should consist of only your own writing. Consider the job and employer to which you’re applying and choose a writing sample that reflects the type of writing that you might do in that job. Don't use a law journal article, as they are generally heavily edited and may be overly complicated or poorly suited to the job to which you’re applying.
Most students choose to use something that they’ve written for Legal Writing I or Legal Writing II, although you may also choose something written for a previous employer. If you use a document or an excerpt from a document that was produced for an employer, you must obtain the employer's permission and redact the document to remove all personally identifying information.
Many employers will specify the preferred length of a writing sample, usually 3 - 5 pages or 5 - 7 pages. If no page limit is specified, assume that seven pages is the maximum. You may choose to cut down a larger writing sample in any way that you wish, but make sure that the resulting excerpt makes sense. One approach is to pick a single issue to include from a larger memo or brief. You might also save room by abbreviating or deleting your discussion of the facts of the case. When deciding where to make cuts, make sure to include enough information that the reader can understand the issues presented and your analysis.
Create a cover sheet for your writing sample that explains what the document is and, if necessary, includes a brief explanation of the fact pattern and point of view. If the document is work produced for a previous employer, include a statement that you received permission to use the sample and briefly describe any redactions that you made. Double- and triple-check your writing sample for typos, grammatical errors, and proper citation forms.
Employers will often request a list of references. Some employers will ask that references be supplied with application materials; others will request them later in the hiring process. As with your writing sample, you should prepare your list of references ahead of time and bring it with you to every interview.
Always obtain permission to use a person as a reference before submitting that person’s name or contact information to an employer. You never want references you list to be unaware that you are relying on them. If a previous employer that you would like to use as a reference has reservations about recommending you, asking for permission first will bring the issue to light. There may be some applications (particularly those for government jobs) that require you to list all previous employers and a contact person or supervisor for each. You should still consider these people to be references and should still let them know that you are listing them on a job application. If one of these people indicates that they will not give you a positive recommendation when contacted by a potential employer, please speak with someone at CPD about how to handle the situation.
Ideally, you will have several strong references that can speak to both your legal and non-legal qualifications. Your references should know you well enough to be able to speak to your research and writing skills, your analytical abilities, your work habits, your ability to work with others, and your character. If possible, your list should include at least one faculty member who is familiar with you and your work. Again, make sure you talk to that person before you apply for employment anywhere to make sure that you have permission to use him or her as a reference. Print out a copy of your resume, cover letter and transcript for your professor to review. Under federal law, you must sign a release before a faculty member may serve as a reference. Download the release form – your professor will sign it and retain the form for their files.
Former legal and non-legal employers are also commonly used as references. Again, you should talk to these people before you list them as references. Print out your application materials and provide them if requested.
Your references should be listed on a separate page. Include the header from your resume to provide continuity and title the page “References.” You should provide the name, title (if appropriate), address, phone number and e-mail for each reference. If it is not immediately apparent how you know the person, include a short explanation. Three references are generally sufficient, but the employer may indicate a specific number. Look at a sample reference page.
Unless an official transcript is specifically requested, an unofficial transcript or even a photocopy of an unofficial transcript is acceptable for job applications. Even if a transcript is not requested, you should be prepared to discuss your grades and your class standing. SU's grading curve is stricter than those of many other law schools, and employers may not be aware of this. Particularly if you are applying to employers outside the Seattle area, please read our explanation of the SU grading policy.