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What to Bring to the Interview

Writing Samples

Your packet should include your writing samples. However, even if you managed to get an article published, please do not bring a copy of the journal. At best, employers will find it cumbersome, lengthy, and unhelpful; at worst, they will find it arrogant. Instead, include five to 10 pages from your article, together with a cover page explaining that it was accepted for publication or recently published in a certain journal.

Your writing sample should not exceed 10 pages. No matter how brilliant your 50-page magnum opus may be, no employer will appreciate having to carry it around or having to flip through it to find your best writing. If you prefer to use a longer piece, you should prepare a 10-page excerpt of it. Interviewers will typically only evaluate the first few paragraphs of your sample, if they choose to look at it at all. So make sure your introduction is clear and concise, and contains no passive verbs or long sentences. Have other people proofread it more than once.

A partner at a major firm related to us that he once interviewed a student from a very good school. The student had great credentials, the interview went well, and the partner really liked him and had already decided to give him an offer. However, during his flight home, he thought he would kill some time by reading the writing samples of the candidates he interviewed that day. This particular student's sample was written fairly well, but it had several poorly worded sentences, misspellings, and three punctuation errors on the very first page. From that moment, the partner no longer considered this student for an offer. He explained to us that a good writer must be diligent, and that there was a greater risk that this particular student would continue to produce sloppy work once he joined the firm.

Because your credentials take priority, a good writing sample may not affect the employer's decision; however, a typo or a misplaced comma in your sample will jeopardize an offer.

Finally, remember your ethical obligations. Do not present a writing sample that was edited by someone else as original work. If you use a memo from your prior employment, remember to redact it by deleting confidential information. Instead of using a black marker, we recommend redacting by using a clearly fictitious name, by using X symbols to replace identifying information, or by using a made-up name along with a footnote explaining the change. It is also a good idea to obtain permission from your prior employer when you use their work product, to indicate if your sample is “unedited,” and to list this information in a footnote or a cover letter attached to the writing sample.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw Job InterviewsWhat to Bring to the Interview - The Packet, Resume, Writing Samples, Transcripts, References, What Not To Bring