Writing Sample Length?

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VinceIrons
Posts: 44
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:48 pm

Writing Sample Length?

Postby VinceIrons » Thu May 05, 2011 6:18 pm

So I'm preparing to apply to a local law firm (through Simplicity), and they've requested I submit a writing sample. I have three to choose from, of varying length and quality. I believe my longest (17p appellate brief) is my best, but, it's 17 pages. The shortest (office memo) is 4 pages, still high quality, but perhaps not as indicative of my legal writing ability as the other two (especially since it's the first LW assignment, while the appellate brief was written this semester). The other paper is a motion to vacate an arbitral award. 12 pages long, decent, but not particularly interesting.

Is there some default rule for page length when one isn't specified? The 4 page one seems to be like what I'd do if hired, but isn't my *best* work. The 17 page one is better, but I kinda doubt they're really keen on reading that much. Also, is there any sense in simply emailing the hiring partner to ask?

Another option I'm considering is sending the shorter paper with a note saying I'd be happy to send them a longer sample if they'd like.

Thanks!

zomginternets
Posts: 547
Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2011 1:59 pm

Re: Writing Sample Length?

Postby zomginternets » Thu May 05, 2011 7:47 pm

For job applications, I think 10 page max. No one at a firm will read a 17 page brief from a job applicant, at least not all the way through. I'd say try to go with something closer to 7 pages, if you have that. The 4 page one works too, as long as it has an in depth analysis. Try to revise or just entirely rewrite it if you're concerned about it's quality. But 17 pages is definitely way too much.

PirateCap'n
Posts: 747
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 5:44 pm

Re: Writing Sample Length?

Postby PirateCap'n » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:56 pm

On a related note, do you guys include the cover page with the writing sample that has the court name, case number, etc? I have a 6 1/4 page writing sample (7 1/4 with the cover page) or a 10 page memorandum on the same topic. Which would be better to use? Long memo or shorter brief? If you don't include the cover page with the brief, is 6 pages sufficient for a writing sample?

Army2Law
Posts: 154
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:35 pm

Re: Writing Sample Length?

Postby Army2Law » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:02 pm

I'd probably just chop the weakest sections out of the brief and summarize what was redacted in the cover letter to the writing sample. But, yeah, 10 pages seems to be the upper limit.

zomginternets
Posts: 547
Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2011 1:59 pm

Re: Writing Sample Length?

Postby zomginternets » Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:43 am

I would go with whichever one you think is a stronger writing sample (or ask an attorney/professor to read them if you can't decide). I wouldn't base your decision off of the length of either one, since they are both within acceptable range.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Writing Sample Length?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:25 am

For job applications, I think 10 page max. No one at a firm will read a 17 page brief from a job applicant, at least not all the way through. I'd say try to go with something closer to 7 pages, if you have that. The 4 page one works too, as long as it has an in depth analysis. Try to revise or just entirely rewrite it if you're concerned about it's quality. But 17 pages is definitely way too much.


I agree that 10 pages is an ideal number (although I think you have some leeway re: font size and single vs. double spacing). However, I wanted to dispute anecdotally "'[n]o one at a firm will read a 17 page brief from a job applicant." Post-law school, I was doing a federal clerkship and applying to large V25 biglaw firms in my market. With my judge's written permission, I submitted a 20-page writing sample linked to a real case decided during the clerkship (the decision had obviously been issued at the time I applied). Several of the partners at the firms to which I applied had *definitely* read the writing sample with interest -- and wanted to discuss it.

A different example, although admittedly slightly off-topic re: "no one at a firm": when I was applying to clerkships in the first place, I submitted a 20-page writing sample -- an academic paper that I'd prepared for a law school seminar. Although most judges hadn't read it (or didn't intimate that they had), one judge had taken a personal interest in the topic, read the entire paper, and wanted to discuss the writing sample for 45 minutes.

In neither set of applications did any interviewer even suggest to me that I'd submitted an overly long writing sample. But, having done four successful post-law school job searches (two clerkship, one big firm, one public interest), I agree with the above-quoted poster that 10-pages is a nearly ideal writing sample job length. For example, in my most recent job search (public interest - impact litigation), the employer whose offer I ultimately accepted asked me to submit a writing sample before my final-round interview. Because the request was made over the phone, I was able to ask them whether they preferred a ten-page or twenty-page writing sample, and they responded that they would prefer the former.




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