Writing sample length?

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Writing sample length?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 21, 2013 4:52 pm

I am trying to figure out what I should use as my writing sample.

My trimmed and edited my 1L brief down to about 8 pages. I've had multiple people look at it, both lawyers and non-lawyers, and received praise.

Looking back I do not know why the 1L LW course required it to be 15+ pages when the issue presented was so narrow.

But after speaking with OCS, they said how a longer writing sample, more so around 12 pages, would make me more competitive.

I suppose I could add back in some of the stuff I initially cut out. But my main concern is that I cut those things out because they added nothing to my argument. I just had them in there because my LW instructor required it.

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emciosn
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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby emciosn » Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:19 am

Anonymous User wrote:I am trying to figure out what I should use as my writing sample.

My trimmed and edited my 1L brief down to about 8 pages. I've had multiple people look at it, both lawyers and non-lawyers, and received praise.

Looking back I do not know why the 1L LW course required it to be 15+ pages when the issue presented was so narrow.

But after speaking with OCS, they said how a longer writing sample, more so around 12 pages, would make me more competitive.

I suppose I could add back in some of the stuff I initially cut out. But my main concern is that I cut those things out because they added nothing to my argument. I just had them in there because my LW instructor required it.


My writing sample was 8 pages as well. I got like ten interviews and have clerkships lined up for the next two years so it worked fine for me. As a clerk I really doubt that the length of the writing sample would have anything to do how competitive you are. Think how many of these the clerk and then the Judge has to read--8 pages is more than enough. In fact, I think anything above 10 pages would probably count against you. Being able to write clearly and concisely is something that judge's value--they want to know you can distill and summarize complicated issues for them without having to write some useless 20 page memo. I personally think 8 pages is the sweet spot of not-too-short and not-too-long but that is just me.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:22 am

Yeah, I don't think a longer sample is necessary in any way. If it showcases good legal writing and reasoning, 8 pages is plenty. Something like 4 pages would raise eyebrows, maybe (just because they might wonder if you'd ever written anything longer), but not 8.

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:24 pm

Thank you for your advice everyone!

I think I'm going to continue to sharpen this writing sample.

Some of my classmates are going to use their Note for their writing sample (think 30-40+ pages).

But I feel much more comfortable going with my shorter writing sample.

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby emciosn » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:41 pm

I think I would throw up in my mouth a little if I opened up an application packet with someone's full journal note. I don't get why people do that. Something shorter is much better and a brief is far more similar to opinion/bench memo writing and thus gives the Judge a better idea of your writing skills. In an opinion you would never use a hundred footnotes to explain every pointless detail ad nauseum. Plus, notes don't every seem to be on real issues that people care about whereas a brief might at least address an interesting circuit split or something.

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:58 pm

emciosn wrote:I think I would throw up in my mouth a little if I opened up an application packet with someone's full journal note. I don't get why people do that. Something shorter is much better and a brief is far more similar to opinion/bench memo writing and thus gives the Judge a better idea of your writing skills. In an opinion you would never use a hundred footnotes to explain every pointless detail ad nauseum. Plus, notes don't every seem to be on real issues that people care about whereas a brief might at least address an interesting circuit split or something.


Have you ever had to review an application where the provided sample was a full Note?

If so, did you find the time to read and evaluate the Note?

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Nov 22, 2013 3:34 pm

I know people who've used their notes and got clerkships. (My note sucked, so that wasn't going to happen.) I think there are COA judges who prefer notes (though I can't imagine even they read them until the pile's been winnowed to 5-10). For district court, something more practical is likely better.

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby emciosn » Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:14 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I know people who've used their notes and got clerkships. (My note sucked, so that wasn't going to happen.) I think there are COA judges who prefer notes (though I can't imagine even they read them until the pile's been winnowed to 5-10). For district court, something more practical is likely better.


Full disclosure: I'm a BK clerk. As a court of first impression I think the judges look for something more practical in BK courts (like you said for district courts). So, that is what is at the root of my rant on using an LR note for a writing sample. At the COA level is could be totally different and having a more academic writing sample may help.

Anonymous User wrote:
emciosn wrote:I think I would throw up in my mouth a little if I opened up an application packet with someone's full journal note. I don't get why people do that. Something shorter is much better and a brief is far more similar to opinion/bench memo writing and thus gives the Judge a better idea of your writing skills. In an opinion you would never use a hundred footnotes to explain every pointless detail ad nauseum. Plus, notes don't every seem to be on real issues that people care about whereas a brief might at least address an interesting circuit split or something.


Have you ever had to review an application where the provided sample was a full Note?

If so, did you find the time to read and evaluate the Note?


No I haven't yet. But to be honest I do not think a clerk in a reasonably busy chambers would have the time to completely read and evaluate a journal note. BK judges get anywhere from 100-300 applications depending on the district (ITE), top district court judges get 500+, COA judges would be somewhere above that. Even on the low end (say 100 aplicants) there is no way a clerk has the time to read all those writing samples, he/she has a full time job doing other stuff in chambers already. I would assume your application packet gets looked at more closely as you work your way up the totem pole. First screening is probably just resumes/transcripts. then skimming writing samples, then looking more closely at the whole packet, then maybe like the last like 10 or so the judge will read, and then those who are interviewed are looked at more closely.

It probably varies chambers to chambers but my point is that all the writing samples do not get read and if you send something too long you run the risk of the entire sample not being read (may only read part of it or the first X pages). It could be better to send something shorter so that your entire analysis is considered/absorbed. Just my $0.02.

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 23, 2013 3:04 am

COA clerk here. As a general rule of thumb, <10 pages is a solid writing sample. Excerpts of Note are fine, as well as objective memos, briefs, etc. I don't like to recommend strict page limits -- my philosophy is just use as much space as you need for the excerpt to provide a complete analysis on a legal issue. (So if it goes over to 11 or 12 pages, that's probably fine.) I might be in the minority, but I think full essay-type Notes (20-25 LR pages) are OK -- I'll usually read the first few pages to familiarize myself with the issue, then skip over to the analysis and see what you have there. I try to skim everyone's writing sample if I can -- for me, a good writing sample can convince me to go to bat for someone whose grades/other parts of the resume might not be as stellar as they'd like it to be.

For OP (and maybe to address emciosn's point): as long as the Note isn't a 93 page discussion on the influence of Emmanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, I'm usually not all that bothered by someone including their entire Note, and I certainly wouldn't recommend dinging an application for it. It almost feels de rigueur (especially for COA applications). That said, the shorter the better.

A caveat on including full-length Notes, though: if you get an interview, it's fair game for discussion (not saying that it'll necessarily come up, but my Note came up during several of my COA interviews).

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 23, 2013 12:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:COA clerk here. As a general rule of thumb, <10 pages is a solid writing sample. Excerpts of Note are fine, as well as objective memos, briefs, etc. I don't like to recommend strict page limits -- my philosophy is just use as much space as you need for the excerpt to provide a complete analysis on a legal issue. (So if it goes over to 11 or 12 pages, that's probably fine.) I might be in the minority, but I think full essay-type Notes (20-25 LR pages) are OK -- I'll usually read the first few pages to familiarize myself with the issue, then skip over to the analysis and see what you have there. I try to skim everyone's writing sample if I can -- for me, a good writing sample can convince me to go to bat for someone whose grades/other parts of the resume might not be as stellar as they'd like it to be.

For OP (and maybe to address emciosn's point): as long as the Note isn't a 93 page discussion on the influence of Emmanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, I'm usually not all that bothered by someone including their entire Note, and I certainly wouldn't recommend dinging an application for it. It almost feels de rigueur (especially for COA applications). That said, the shorter the better.

A caveat on including full-length Notes, though: if you get an interview, it's fair game for discussion (not saying that it'll necessarily come up, but my Note came up during several of my COA interviews).


Got it thanks!

Also, what is your personal philosophy for when you look over a resume? Do you set pre-set GPA hard-cutoffs in your mind, and if an applicant falls below it, you immediately move on without looking at the rest of their resume?

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby jarofsoup » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:14 pm

5-6 pages. Try to use something from a summer or fall/spring internship....From experience, employers do not seem to be a huge fan of 1L memos, and notes.

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:21 pm

jarofsoup wrote:5-6 pages. Try to use something from a summer or fall/spring internship....From experience, employers do not seem to be a huge fan of 1L memos, and notes.

All employers, or judges?

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 24, 2013 2:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:COA clerk here. As a general rule of thumb, <10 pages is a solid writing sample. Excerpts of Note are fine, as well as objective memos, briefs, etc. I don't like to recommend strict page limits -- my philosophy is just use as much space as you need for the excerpt to provide a complete analysis on a legal issue. (So if it goes over to 11 or 12 pages, that's probably fine.) I might be in the minority, but I think full essay-type Notes (20-25 LR pages) are OK -- I'll usually read the first few pages to familiarize myself with the issue, then skip over to the analysis and see what you have there. I try to skim everyone's writing sample if I can -- for me, a good writing sample can convince me to go to bat for someone whose grades/other parts of the resume might not be as stellar as they'd like it to be.

For OP (and maybe to address emciosn's point): as long as the Note isn't a 93 page discussion on the influence of Emmanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, I'm usually not all that bothered by someone including their entire Note, and I certainly wouldn't recommend dinging an application for it. It almost feels de rigueur (especially for COA applications). That said, the shorter the better.

A caveat on including full-length Notes, though: if you get an interview, it's fair game for discussion (not saying that it'll necessarily come up, but my Note came up during several of my COA interviews).


Got it thanks!

Also, what is your personal philosophy for when you look over a resume? Do you set pre-set GPA hard-cutoffs in your mind, and if an applicant falls below it, you immediately move on without looking at the rest of their resume?


No pre-set GPA cutoffs. Obviously top 50%, absent compelling circumstances, will probably be a dealbreaker. But things like course selection, etc. are important. If it's between a guy in the top 1% of his class after having taken 10 courses on Law and Basketweaving versus the guy in the top 10% of his class who took Partnership Tax, Fed Courts, Admin, etc., I'm probably going to recommend the latter.

School snobbery is a huge pet peeve of mine. I've dealt with other COA clerks who have said they'll throw applications from non-T14 schools (and sometimes, non-HYS) in the trash. I went to a non-T14 school (and not T-15 or T-16, either), so it really irks me to hear that sort of thing. Usually, I try not to pay attention to what school you went to, and if I do, it's a relative consideration, i.e., you might need a higher GPA/class rank if you come from a T2 over a T1, but not a huge difference.

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 29, 2013 11:29 pm

So what's the consensus on using a memo you wrote for a judge (with permission of course). It's been mentioned that this could veto you with certain judges but is this the extreme minority? Or are there enough judges who frown upon this where it should be avoided?

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby jarofsoup » Sat Nov 30, 2013 3:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:So what's the consensus on using a memo you wrote for a judge (with permission of course). It's been mentioned that this could veto you with certain judges but is this the extreme minority? Or are there enough judges who frown upon this where it should be avoided?


I worked for a gov/ agency. Use that memo for my sample. Just anything solid, that is work product.

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Re: Writing sample length?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:COA clerk here. As a general rule of thumb, <10 pages is a solid writing sample. Excerpts of Note are fine, as well as objective memos, briefs, etc. I don't like to recommend strict page limits -- my philosophy is just use as much space as you need for the excerpt to provide a complete analysis on a legal issue. (So if it goes over to 11 or 12 pages, that's probably fine.) I might be in the minority, but I think full essay-type Notes (20-25 LR pages) are OK -- I'll usually read the first few pages to familiarize myself with the issue, then skip over to the analysis and see what you have there. I try to skim everyone's writing sample if I can -- for me, a good writing sample can convince me to go to bat for someone whose grades/other parts of the resume might not be as stellar as they'd like it to be.

For OP (and maybe to address emciosn's point): as long as the Note isn't a 93 page discussion on the influence of Emmanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, I'm usually not all that bothered by someone including their entire Note, and I certainly wouldn't recommend dinging an application for it. It almost feels de rigueur (especially for COA applications). That said, the shorter the better.

A caveat on including full-length Notes, though: if you get an interview, it's fair game for discussion (not saying that it'll necessarily come up, but my Note came up during several of my COA interviews).


Got it thanks!

Also, what is your personal philosophy for when you look over a resume? Do you set pre-set GPA hard-cutoffs in your mind, and if an applicant falls below it, you immediately move on without looking at the rest of their resume?


No pre-set GPA cutoffs. Obviously top 50%, absent compelling circumstances, will probably be a dealbreaker. But things like course selection, etc. are important. If it's between a guy in the top 1% of his class after having taken 10 courses on Law and Basketweaving versus the guy in the top 10% of his class who took Partnership Tax, Fed Courts, Admin, etc., I'm probably going to recommend the latter.

School snobbery is a huge pet peeve of mine. I've dealt with other COA clerks who have said they'll throw applications from non-T14 schools (and sometimes, non-HYS) in the trash. I went to a non-T14 school (and not T-15 or T-16, either), so it really irks me to hear that sort of thing. Usually, I try not to pay attention to what school you went to, and if I do, it's a relative consideration, i.e., you might need a higher GPA/class rank if you come from a T2 over a T1, but not a huge difference.

Bless your heart. I'm applying for COA clerkships and I didn't go to a t14. I'm always worried about that. I'm currently clerking and I know my Judge has said some of his best clerks came from lower ranked schools.




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