Resumes, Cover Letters and Writing Samples
Job applications in the legal profession usually consist of a cover letter, resume, unofficial transcript and a writing sample. A well-written resume and cover letter, along with a strong writing sample, are crucial. See our guides below for more information.
The rules for crafting law resumes and cover letters may be different from those used in other professions and for undergraduate work. To draft your law resume, follow the Career Strategies Office Law Resume Guide (PDF). You may also want to use one of the following sample resumes as a template:
You should have a counselor in the Career Strategies Office review your resume before you send it out for the first time.
A cover letter filled with boilerplate phrases, a generic message, and cut-and-pasted names is destined for the slush pile, but a well-written letter can easily set you apart from the pack. Employers take cover letters seriously and treat them as the first example of your writing abilities. Read our Career Strategies Office Cover Letter Guide (PDF) for advice on writing an effective cover letter.
Writing Sample Guide
Most legal employers will ask for a writing sample as part of your application materials. They usually prefer “working documents” like memos and briefs rather than academic pieces like scholarly essays or law journal articles.
Here are six tips for submitting a writing sample (you can download the following as a PDF here):
- Your first-year Legal Methods memo or brief is usually a good base for a writing sample. As you complete legal internships and co-op placements, try to use workplace memos and briefs from those experiences as writing samples.
- Always get your employer’s permission first.
- Redact confidential and identifying information. It’s easier and more professional to read if you simply change to fictitious names, rather than blacking out identifying information.
- Writing samples should be no longer than ten pages (some employers will ask for only five pages). You should take the time to adjust your memo or brief to conform to the page limit. Take out one section of an analysis or take out the facts and provide a factual summary instead. Employers are looking for your best example of legal analysis – applying the law to the facts to come to a conclusion.
- You should annotate your writing sample so the employer knows what it is, what you took out, and that you have permission to use it. For example, use a cover page that says something like this:
This is the memo I wrote for my first-year Legal Methods class. The memo involved three issues: whether a father who mistakenly left his infant son in the car all day causing his son’s death should be charged with involuntary manslaughter or endangering the welfare of a child, and whether photographs taken of the deceased infant are admissible at trial. For writing sample purposes, I am including only the analysis on involuntary manslaughter.
This is a portion of a memo that I drafted during my internship with Dutchess & Snow. This analysis focuses on whether the State of New Jersey is immune from suit under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act for a drowning allegedly caused by the State’s coastline dredging operations. I have my employer’s permission to use this analysis as a writing sample, and I have redacted all confidential and identifying information.
- Put a header on each page: Rick Blaine, Writing Sample, Page X.