Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

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Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:13 pm

I clerked at the district level last year. I'm in private practice now, but I think I want to clerk again, preferably at the appellate level. So I need to update my application.

In terms of writing samples, could some appellate clerks chip in as to what type of sample is best? For example, how would a memo to my previous judge look (assuming he's ok with it of course)? I'm thinking about a lengthy objective memo I wrote on a case that ultimately settled.

And what about a motion from my current position? This would lack the objectivity of normal judicial writing, but also demonstrates quality analysis in my view.

Finally, I have a seminar paper I used when applying for clerkships originally. But I think my writing has improved since then.

So, out of those three options, what would be best or does it even matter?

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rpupkin

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby rpupkin » Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
So, out of those three options, what would be best or does it even matter?

Bench memo for district-court judge would be the best. Ideally, the memo would focus primarily on an issue of law--say, a difficult legal question that your judge was grappling with when deciding a summary judgment motion.

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby mjb447 » Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:30 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
So, out of those three options, what would be best or does it even matter?

Bench memo for district-court judge would be the best. Ideally, the memo would focus primarily on an issue of law--say, a difficult legal question that your judge was grappling with when deciding a summary judgment motion.

+1. Appellate work is still mostly writing bench memos, so a bench memo is best.

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 25, 2017 12:05 pm

Thanks. I have a few memos dealing with first impression issues of state law we received through diversity jurisdiction. Also a couple dealing with a federal statute and whether to give appropriate deference to an agency interpretation of same. The circuits were split on the latter issue.

Hopefully I'll be able to use one of those. The one that settled dealt with a run of the mill Title VII case, although, it was my first time grappling with the statute, so my research and analysis were lengthy.

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby mjb447 » Sat Feb 25, 2017 3:51 pm

I'm always conflicted about the value of a writing sample on a "run-of-the-mill" case. I think people sometimes aim a little too high in terms of having their writing sample deal with a complex or novel issue, even if the subject matter is really impenetrable to a naive legal reader looking to evaluate the general quality of the writing. For some positions, a clear writing sample on something a little pedestrian might be completely fine. (Obviously, a clearly written sample on a complex issue is probably ideal.)

All that said, since you're shooting for appellate courts and Title VII cases are often really fact driven (and therefore less relevant to the work that appellate courts do), a memo on an issue of first impression or circuit split is probably better.

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 25, 2017 4:23 pm

Insightful post. I appreciate it. I think I'm going to apply for other district positions as well, but I think your point still applies.

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 30, 2017 8:51 pm

OP here. I suppose it's good news and bad news for me. I got a LOR from my judge. But I also found that my old bench memos were not saved on Chambers' computer system. However, there is an unpublished opinion my Judge did for a case that settled before release of same. I wrote it for the most part, but it is edited. I shouldn't use that, right? It's not a matter of permission; judge said I could use it. I just figured most judges would scoff at it as a writing sample.

Now, I'm scrambling for a writing sample more current than my 2l summer. I have a good memo I drafted for a partner at my current firm. This isn't big law. And I don't want to tell anyone I'm potentially applying for clerkships. Would it be a no no to withdraw client information and use it without firm's permission? I'm struggling here.

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby rpupkin » Thu Mar 30, 2017 10:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. I suppose it's good news and bad news for me. I got a LOR from my judge. But I also found that my old bench memos were not saved on Chambers' computer system. However, there is an unpublished opinion my Judge did for a case that settled before release of same. I wrote it for the most part, but it is edited. I shouldn't use that, right? It's not a matter of permission; judge said I could use it. I just figured most judges would scoff at it as a writing sample.

It's a little risky, but if you don't have another decent writing sample candidate (and it sounds like you don't), then I suggest using the opinion, along with a prominent cover sheet that explains that your judge gave you permission to use the opinion as a writing sample. In fact, you may want to ask your judge to revise his LOR to discuss your role in drafting the opinion, if he hasn't already done so.

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby timmyd » Sun Apr 02, 2017 5:51 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:OP here. I suppose it's good news and bad news for me. I got a LOR from my judge. But I also found that my old bench memos were not saved on Chambers' computer system. However, there is an unpublished opinion my Judge did for a case that settled before release of same. I wrote it for the most part, but it is edited. I shouldn't use that, right? It's not a matter of permission; judge said I could use it. I just figured most judges would scoff at it as a writing sample.

It's a little risky, but if you don't have another decent writing sample candidate (and it sounds like you don't), then I suggest using the opinion, along with a prominent cover sheet that explains that your judge gave you permission to use the opinion as a writing sample. In fact, you may want to ask your judge to revise his LOR to discuss your role in drafting the opinion, if he hasn't already done so.


Thanks for your usual sage advice. So the firm sample would be inappropriate without permission? I intuitively know the answer I think. But I read once that at least one clerkship department of a well regarded school advised that it was ok if identifying info was removed--even without permission. Otherwise, I'll likely use the opinion with disclaimer.

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby rpupkin » Sun Apr 02, 2017 7:43 pm

timmyd wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:OP here. I suppose it's good news and bad news for me. I got a LOR from my judge. But I also found that my old bench memos were not saved on Chambers' computer system. However, there is an unpublished opinion my Judge did for a case that settled before release of same. I wrote it for the most part, but it is edited. I shouldn't use that, right? It's not a matter of permission; judge said I could use it. I just figured most judges would scoff at it as a writing sample.

It's a little risky, but if you don't have another decent writing sample candidate (and it sounds like you don't), then I suggest using the opinion, along with a prominent cover sheet that explains that your judge gave you permission to use the opinion as a writing sample. In fact, you may want to ask your judge to revise his LOR to discuss your role in drafting the opinion, if he hasn't already done so.


Thanks for your usual sage advice. So the firm sample would be inappropriate without permission? I intuitively know the answer I think. But I read once that at least one clerkship department of a well regarded school advised that it was ok if identifying info was removed--even without permission. Otherwise, I'll likely use the opinion with disclaimer.

I don't know what schools say about this, but I would never submit something I prepared for a client without the client's permission, even if I was redacting the client's identity. Actually, this reminds me of a story: when I was clerking, an applicant submitted a writing sample—a memo the applicant had prepared as a summer associate—where the client info was redacted. But because of the law firm and the issue addressed in the memo, we all realized who the client was. It was pretty funny.

In any case, although you probably wouldn't get caught or in trouble for it, I do think it's improper to share work product without the client's permission.

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Re: Appropriate writing sample from first clerkship or current position

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 03, 2017 7:09 pm

You have moved on past the Title VII idea but I want to post for future seekers. I am reviewing writing samples for a district court clerk position right now and one word of warning. If you have spent a lot of effort/space writing about a relatively easy legal issue, it looks like you didn't understand that the issue was easy and could raise a red flag. On another note, I got a writing sample from firm work and the first thing I thought was did they get permission. The cover letter said they were and I was satisfied. I would have asked in the interview and would have been off put if they hadn't.



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