12 09

Examples of good legal writing

examples of good legal writing

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There are countless ways to stylistically complete an academic essay. Here are some examples of how students have successfully done so, while maintaining proper academic structure.


A proper introduction should:

  • Introduce main arguments
  • Have an attention grabbing first sentence 
  • Provide concise information about broader significance of topic
  • Lead in to the body of the essay

Here are three examples of introduction paragraphs. They have been re-written several times to illustrate the difference between excellent, good and poor answers. For a close reading of the examples, click the images below.

Introduction example 1Example 1Introduction example 2Example 2Introduction example 3Example 3

The Body

The body of your essay should:

  • Address one idea per paragraph
  • Support arguments with scholarly references or evidence
  • Contextualise any case studies or examples


  • Use correct punctuation and proofread your work
  • Keep writing impersonal (do not use 'I', 'we', 'me')
  • Be concise and simple
  • Be confident ("The evidence suggests..." rather than "this could be because...")
  • Connect paragraphs so they flow and are logical
  • Introduce primary and secondary sources appropriately
  • Avoid using too many quotations or using quotes that are too long
  • Do not use contractions (you’re, they’d)
  • Do not use emotive language ("the horrific and extremely sad scene is evidence of...")

This example illustrates how to keep an essay succinct and focused, by taking the time to define the topic:

Defining a topicDefining a topic

The following paragraphs demonstrate how to engage with a variety of scholarly material including primary sources, scholarly theories and formal statistics:

Introducing sourcesIntroducing sources

Lastly, this paragraph illustrates how to engage with opposing arguments and refute them:


A proper conclusion should:
  • Sum up arguments
  • Provide relevance to overall topic and unit themes
  • Not introduce new ideas
Here are two examples of conclusion paragraphs which have been re-written several times to illustrate the difference between excellent, good and poor answers.

Conclusion example 1Example 1 Conclusion example 2Example 2

A writing sample demonstrates how well you organize and express your thoughts in writing. It also provides concrete evidence of your analytical skills. Naturally, you want to submit a sample that presents your abilities in the best possible light. Creating a positive writing sample takes some careful thought and effort.

A memo or brief you prepared for lawyering seminar can work well as a writing sample.

Employers are looking for clear, effective legal writing and analysis. An objective interoffice memo or a persuasive brief are both acceptable vehicles for demonstrating your writing and analysis abilities.

Select a sample that is sufficiently recent to demonstrate your current writing and analysis skills.

Most students' legal writing improves greatly over the course of law school, so selecting a recent piece of work should demonstrate your current strength and give employers confidence that they will see similar skills exercised on their behalf.

Make your sample reader-friendly.

As in all legal writing, consider your purpose and audience. As discussed above, your purpose is to demonstrate your writing and analysis skills. Now think about who's reading your sample and what his/her needs and motives are. Chances are good that your reader - the prospective employer - must read several writing samples in a short time-frame. Here are some tips for making your sample reader-friendly:

  • Attach a cover memo that spells out context for the sample. If you are using a memo or brief prepared for lawyering seminar, the cover memo should describe the circumstances under which the sample was written, including the course (Law Sem I, II, or III); a one-sentence overview of the simulation and your assigned role in it; the details of the assignment and whether it was an objective memo or a persuasive brief; a summary of the fact scenario, legal issue(s), and doctrine presented in the sample; and an explanation of whether and how the sample was critiqued by your professor during the drafting process.
Most employers won't read more than 10 or so pages to determine how well you write, and some employers will set a page limit for the sample. You want to make sure that you give them pages that best demonstrate your proficiency. To get your sample to the right length, consider cutting the fact section, issue statement, and/or, for a multi-issue memo or brief, one or more of the points of analysis or argument. Keep the portions that best demonstrate your legal analysis abilities and that present legal issues and doctrine that are likely to be familiar to the reader. It is difficult for your reader to assess the strength of your analysis if the area of law is completely foreign to her/him. If you do omit portions, be sure to explain that in your cover letter, as the sample cover letter does here <doc>.
  • Make sure your formatting is reader-friendly and professional. We recommend a basic font, like Times New Roman, 12-point type, double-spaced with one-inch margins.
  • Maximize the positive impression your writing sample makes.

    We cannot overstate the importance of refining and polishing your writing sample. Your writing sample conveys to the employer the level of care and attention - or lack thereof - that you pay to your writing.

    • Revision never ends. If you received comments from your professor on the final draft of the writing you are now using as a sample, incorporate that feedback into the sample. In addition, exercise your own judgment as to how to improve the writing and analysis. Perhaps several months have passed since you wrote the memo or brief and you are further along in your development as a writer, analyst, and advocate. How would you revise to improve the writing today?
    • Use legal phrases and terms carefully and precisely. Your reader is a practicing lawyer. S/he knows what legal terms mean and will recognize incorrect, imprecise, or casual use of them.
    On the other hand, an excellent writing sample can help you get a leg up on the competition.

    It is a good idea to build a portfolio of writing samples during school and your early years of practice.

    This portfolio should include your best work in a variety of genres. If you are uncertain that your samples will pass muster, check out these seven ways to improve your writing skills.

    Below are five common mistakes applicants make in submitting writing samples.

    1. Poor Writing Sample

    A poorly written sample that contains fundamental errors in grammar, word choice, sentence construction or other quality problems is a red flag for employers. Below are a few issues to watch:

    • Sentence clarity
    • Word choice
    • Redundancies and/or inaccuracies in text
    • Consistency
    • Tone/voice
    • Content organization
    • Flow/transitions
    • Sentence structure
    • Gaps in content
    • Presentation

    Have a mentor, professor, co-worker or other trusted professional review your writing samples. If your writing skills need work, take a few writing classes or hire a tutor to help you improve your writing.

    A single typo is enough to instill doubt in the reviewer and eliminate you from consideration.

    3. Off-Topic Samples

    Make sure your writing samples match the employer’s request and the needs of the position.

    If, for example, you are applying for an associate position, don’t submit your senior term paper on psychosocial behavior. Instead, submit a sample that demonstrates that you can perform the job for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for a position as an associate in the firm’s litigation department, submit a brief, motion or memorandum of law. If you are applying for a position as a corporate paralegal, submit a resolution, escrow trust agreement or related transactional document.

    4. Failure to Follow Instructions

    Always follow the job ad or potential employer’s instructions for submitting writing samples, particularly with respect to:

    • Type of samples. Make sure that the type of sample you submit (i.e., brief, correspondence, motion) matches the employer’s request in terms of format, style, and content. If you don’t have a relevant sample in your portfolio, draft a new writing ​sample to fit.


    1. Valocic

      3 ) they"re prime examples of ppl who fall into the bystander effect groupthink despite the belief it"s women who"re sheep ( can give examples )

    2. Xeseradegaqebo

      Another example of tolerance from our academic elite. Maybe Professor Yelper should take her crap-atude to a sensitive seminar

    3. Kojovazupiq

      , etc on example of cars

    4. Nodizagef

      Is this something you guys will hold tight to the chest until release? I would love to see some examples of what this will look like.

    5. Pubanarilew

      Just the ability to survive and get along. I don"t think sub-Saharan blacks are capable of generating such a culture, for example.

    6. Nizupaxemeteg

      What was the theme song from NYC15? A. I am ablaze for you B. Draw me close to you C. I"m an example of Christ

    7. Juwedez

      English Word of the Day Example: The crowd vented their anger on the police.

    8. Rozepopafuwufo

      Great insight. Never occurred to me, but I think it"s correct. Supporting example: Kelly Link, whose stories usually break a lot of rules.

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