Writing sample for clerkship

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lawschoolftw
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Writing sample for clerkship

Postby lawschoolftw » Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:38 pm

What's typical for a writing sample for a clerkship? Is it like the same one I used for applying to firms? Or should it be something longer and more complete? I'm using a brief I wrote for Moot Court so should I use the entire brief, or just an excerpted argument.

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Detrox
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby Detrox » Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:52 pm

Most resources I've seen say use a 10-15 page sample, no longer than that, probably a clip from a longer piece of legal writing. Either your note or work product should be fine, as long as it demonstrates legal analysis. Disclaimer: 2L going through the clerkship application process.

lawschoolftw
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby lawschoolftw » Thu Feb 23, 2012 9:04 pm

Detrox wrote:Most resources I've seen say use a 10-15 page sample, no longer than that, probably a clip from a longer piece of legal writing. Either your note or work product should be fine, as long as it demonstrates legal analysis. Disclaimer: 2L going through the clerkship application process.



Thanks! yeah for the on-plan stuff im hoping to use my note or some work product from my current judicial internship. For my off-plan stuff I need a sample so i think im gonna except a portion of my MC brief.

traydeuce
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby traydeuce » Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:41 pm

1. Different judges like different sorts of things. Some prefer work product, some prefer something more scholarly (notes/seminar papers). Pay attention to what they have to say about it on OSCAR/any resources your school may have on judges' preferences. If your school has sent clerks to a judge you really like in the past, contact them and ask.

2. 10 pages is definitely on the low side; I think you want to be at at least 15 and there's nothing wrong at all with sending in the entirety of your note. My sample was 28 pages. A federal judge graded it (and was asked later if it'd be a good sample), a nominee for a COA spot and several COA clerks read it before I submitted it. No one ever suggested it was too long or that I should cut anything. I got 6 interviews and the one judge who talked about it in my interview seemed to have read it thoroughly and with great interest. I don't mean to suggest that 28 isn't a little high, but it seems in my case to have been an acceptable length.

3. Of all the sorts of things you can submit, a moot court brief is perhaps the worst. An advocacy piece that doesn't actually reflect what you think about on an issue, but what the organizers of a competition told you to argue for, is nice for applying to firms, but it's kind of orthogonal to the purposes of asking clerkship applicants for a writing sample in the first place. The judge is interested in whether you can write good bench memos and opinions - that is, in your ability to describe the state of the law honestly, think about difficult legal issues, and to recommend/argue for a result - while honestly and thoughtfully dealing with the arguments on the other side - that is hopefully correct. A good note or paper does all that; a good brief will usually make out a question to be a lot easier than it really is, and make out opposing arguments to be a lot weaker than they really are. Submitting a brief as your sample will also make it difficult for the judge/his clerks to ask you questions about it, as they have no idea whether you believe anything you said therein, or if you even think the arguments you laid out are the best arguments for the position you were asked to take. It really tells them very little about you.

lawschoolftw
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby lawschoolftw » Fri Feb 24, 2012 1:28 am

traydeuce wrote:1. Different judges like different sorts of things. Some prefer work product, some prefer something more scholarly (notes/seminar papers). Pay attention to what they have to say about it on OSCAR/any resources your school may have on judges' preferences. If your school has sent clerks to a judge you really like in the past, contact them and ask.

2. 10 pages is definitely on the low side; I think you want to be at at least 15 and there's nothing wrong at all with sending in the entirety of your note. My sample was 28 pages. A federal judge graded it (and was asked later if it'd be a good sample), a nominee for a COA spot and several COA clerks read it before I submitted it. No one ever suggested it was too long or that I should cut anything. I got 6 interviews and the one judge who talked about it in my interview seemed to have read it thoroughly and with great interest. I don't mean to suggest that 28 isn't a little high, but it seems in my case to have been an acceptable length.

3. Of all the sorts of things you can submit, a moot court brief is perhaps the worst. An advocacy piece that doesn't actually reflect what you think about on an issue, but what the organizers of a competition told you to argue for, is nice for applying to firms, but it's kind of orthogonal to the purposes of asking clerkship applicants for a writing sample in the first place. The judge is interested in whether you can write good bench memos and opinions - that is, in your ability to describe the state of the law honestly, think about difficult legal issues, and to recommend/argue for a result - while honestly and thoughtfully dealing with the arguments on the other side - that is hopefully correct. A good note or paper does all that; a good brief will usually make out a question to be a lot easier than it really is, and make out opposing arguments to be a lot weaker than they really are. Submitting a brief as your sample will also make it difficult for the judge/his clerks to ask you questions about it, as they have no idea whether you believe anything you said therein, or if you even think the arguments you laid out are the best arguments for the position you were asked to take. It really tells them very little about you.


Thank you that thought out response, I really do appreciate it. Unfortunately, I'm kind of stuck here though. My current judicial internship the opinions I've drafted haven't even been published by the Judge yet so the parties don't even know the outcome. I obviously cannot use those. Additionally, my note is still a work in progress and is not going to be ready to go by next week (at least nothing worth sending). The only real non-advocacy piece I have is a memorandum I wrote as a 1L which I don't think even begins to reflect my current writing abilities. It is definitely my intention to use my note for the fed clerkships on plan. But for the state supreme court clerkships I'm kind of forced to apply to now it's kind of tough to come up with something.

traydeuce
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby traydeuce » Fri Feb 24, 2012 1:44 am

lawschoolftw wrote:Thank you that thought out response, I really do appreciate it. Unfortunately, I'm kind of stuck here though. My current judicial internship the opinions I've drafted haven't even been published by the Judge yet so the parties don't even know the outcome. I obviously cannot use those. Additionally, my note is still a work in progress and is not going to be ready to go by next week (at least nothing worth sending). The only real non-advocacy piece I have is a memorandum I wrote as a 1L which I don't think even begins to reflect my current writing abilities. It is definitely my intention to use my note for the fed clerkships on plan. But for the state supreme court clerkships I'm kind of forced to apply to now it's kind of tough to come up with something.


Whoa whoa whoa. You can NEVER use an opinion you wrote. That's the "judge's" work, not yours. Never mind that you wrote it. That's just a convention you must follow. Are there memos that you wrote to the judge on these cases? You can use those as samples regardless of whether the opinions have come out yet - but even then only if your judge gives permission, which you must state on a cover letter/statement accompanying the memo.

lawschoolftw
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby lawschoolftw » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:37 am

No I know. I know that there's a minority school of thought that thinks a first draft is okay with the judges permission, my only point was that it is without question that it is extremely inappropriate in this instance. To your question, unfortunately no. I've only drafted opinions.

traydeuce
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby traydeuce » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:14 pm

Yeah, even there, the judges receiving the first draft may not be so happy, regardless of whether your judge was cool with it. It sounds like you're in a tight spot and must use the moot court brief - though don't disregard seminar papers if you have any.

zomginternets
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby zomginternets » Sat Feb 25, 2012 12:49 pm

Related question: do you have to turn in the first draft of the bench memo you wrote (as an extern) exactly as it was when you gave it to the clerk to read? I know that subsequent drafts are edited by the clerks and thus aren't your own writing sample anymore. But after you're done with the case, can you go back to your first draft and edit it before using it as a writing sample? or would that also make it no longer "your" writing sample?

lawschoolftw
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby lawschoolftw » Sat Feb 25, 2012 5:45 pm

Thanks for all of your help traydeuce. One last question. Do you think since I'm forced to use the brief, I should submit the competition packet it came with so that references to things inside the packet are clearer. Or will just providing a clear statement of facts be sufficient?

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vamedic03
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby vamedic03 » Sat Feb 25, 2012 6:20 pm

lawschoolftw wrote:Thanks for all of your help traydeuce. One last question. Do you think since I'm forced to use the brief, I should submit the competition packet it came with so that references to things inside the packet are clearer. Or will just providing a clear statement of facts be sufficient?


You should be able to provide adequate context in a single paragraph introducing the writing sample.

traydeuce
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby traydeuce » Sat Feb 25, 2012 7:21 pm

Zominginternets: I'll be honest, I sent some judges a memo that a clerk had tinkered with a bit, though I removed a lot of his edits because I didn't like them. But you can definitely, and definitely should, edit your own first draft.

OP: First paragraph on a cover page like vamedic says, and keep the statement of facts, which they of course can easily skip over/skim if they choose. I'd just send the whole brief unless there's a weak section you'd like to cut, some sort of backup argument you didn't like for example.

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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 25, 2012 7:32 pm

traydeuce wrote:Zominginternets: I'll be honest, I sent some judges a memo that a clerk had tinkered with a bit, though I removed a lot of his edits because I didn't like them. But you can definitely, and definitely should, edit your own first draft.

OP: First paragraph on a cover page like vamedic says, and keep the statement of facts, which they of course can easily skip over/skim if they choose. I'd just send the whole brief unless there's a weak section you'd like to cut, some sort of backup argument you didn't like for example.



When I externed for a judge, I was specifically told by him that drafts of orders or memos are *never* to be used as writing samples. I'm not sure if this is common, but it makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

traydeuce
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby traydeuce » Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:49 pm

Most judges will permit you to send out a bench memo; most judges will also not be bothered if they receive one as a sample, so long as permission was granted to send it out, and you state that. But yes, some mind and you run that risk if you go with a bench memo. Drafts are never kosher though, of course. And if you extern on the district level, where I guess memos may look more like drafts of orders than what I'd call a bench memo, I can see the problem.

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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 26, 2012 12:58 pm

traydeuce wrote:Zominginternets: I'll be honest, I sent some judges a memo that a clerk had tinkered with a bit, though I removed a lot of his edits because I didn't like them. But you can definitely, and definitely should, edit your own first draft.

OP: First paragraph on a cover page like vamedic says, and keep the statement of facts, which they of course can easily skip over/skim if they choose. I'd just send the whole brief unless there's a weak section you'd like to cut, some sort of backup argument you didn't like for example.



Thanks!!

lawschoolftw
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Re: Writing sample for clerkship

Postby lawschoolftw » Sun Feb 26, 2012 12:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
traydeuce wrote:Zominginternets: I'll be honest, I sent some judges a memo that a clerk had tinkered with a bit, though I removed a lot of his edits because I didn't like them. But you can definitely, and definitely should, edit your own first draft.

OP: First paragraph on a cover page like vamedic says, and keep the statement of facts, which they of course can easily skip over/skim if they choose. I'd just send the whole brief unless there's a weak section you'd like to cut, some sort of backup argument you didn't like for example.



Thanks!!



OP--> Didn't mean to go anon.




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