What is typically given the least amount of attention by candidates, but has the highest likelihood of undermining their chances for getting the job?

Writing samples.

To show just how important a good writing sample can be, I’ll never forget the following email which came for a recruiting manager at a large firm.

Writing Samples for Attorney Jobs: 12 Important Issues You Must Know
 
" We’re going to pass on this candidate. It was a tough call. Although everyone loved [the candidate] and thought their personality and experience were by far the best of everyone we’ve interviewed so far, their writing sample had typos and fragmented sentences. This reflected negatively on [the candidate's] attention to detail and their ability to proofread--skills essential to our practice. Please continue th..e search for us!"
 

This illustrates how a legal writing sample has the potential to sabotage one's candidacy.

Interestingly, writing samples are seen by some attorneys in the job market as a mere after-the-fact formality that warrants only minimal attention.

 
  • Many find it draining to search for the best lawyer writing sample, consider redactions/privilege issues and review it with a fine-tooth comb for any mistakes, context, etc. There is a fear of finding errors and having to spend substantial time reworking the sample.
  • Because most interviewers typically don't focus on writing samples (some will, even more so during law school), many job seekers are often under the false impression that writing samples are secondary compared to the contents of the résumé and how well they connect with their interviewer. What candidates don't see is how writing samples are often scrutinized after the interviews.
  • This fastidious quality should also accompany your Cover Letter and résumé that’ll go with your law firm application.