Writing Sample Question

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Writing Sample Question

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 08, 2021 12:44 pm

I was planning on using a memo I wrote to one of the judge's clerks I interned with last summer as my writing sample. My school's clerkship office suggested this would be frowned upon by judges. Is that true?

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Re: Writing Sample Question

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 08, 2021 12:58 pm

As with everything about clerkship applications, there's no one answer. Many judges prefer writing samples that are more traditional legal writing (a brief), but others want something more academic (a law review note), and others don't care as long as it's well written.

Just make sure you have your judge's permission before using something you wrote during your internship, though.

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Re: Writing Sample Question

Post by nixy » Tue Jun 08, 2021 4:16 pm

There is a school of thought out there that using anything written for a judge is an issue b/c it pierces the veil of the fiction that judges actually personally produce all the stuff that goes out under their names. You're not supposed to show how the sausage gets made.

That said, one of the judges I clerked for always worked with interns (and clerks) to make sure that they had a strong writing sample from their time in chambers (the judge even had a strategy for giving feedback without editing so that people could use the sample as an unedited sample). So I think a lot of people out don't have any problems with using something written for a judge (and I used something from when I clerked as a writing sample for job apps, although not for any clerkship apps).

But definitely get your judge's permission and find out if there's anything special they want you to do. You could even tell them what your clerkship office said and ask their input.

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Re: Writing Sample Question

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:31 pm

For my CoA applications I usually submitted my law review note (which is long) and a brief memo I wrote to a clerk while I was interning for a judge (which was ~5 pages and edited only by me). I think as a standalone writing sample the memo probably wouldn't have been the best because the analysis and issues were relatively straightforward--there wouldn't be a whole lot of questions you could have asked me about it. But I thought it was good to put in as a way of showing that I can impartially analyze issues, write in a judicial setting, and that I can write well without the editing process that a law review note entails. I asked my judge for permission to use the memo and included a cover page explaining the context of the memo and the fact that I was including it with the judge's permission.

So it depends on your writing sample and it depends on the judge you're applying for. Some judges want longer pieces that they can ask you a lot of substantive questions about (in which case, a law review note or maybe a moot court brief would be best) and some would want a shorter, more practical writing. When you don't have an indication that the judge has a preference between the two, I think there generally isn't much harm in providing both.

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