Dear 1L: OCI Writing Samples

by Amanda Haverstick

This article originally appeared here on


Dear 1L,

When finalizing your writing samples for this summer’s law-firm recruiting (aka, OCI, or On Campus Interviewing), please aim for as near perfect as possible.

As a still-recovering perfectionist, I am hesitant to recommend that anyone strive for perfection in anything. I know the perils of such pursuits well. That said, there are some things—your resume, for one—that really do need to be perfect (or as nearly so as possible).

After your resume, your writing sample is a close second. It does not need to win any awards or rival the writings of Paul Clement or Justice Elena Kagan, but it does need to be error-free.

Your writing sample is one of the very few pieces of the OCI puzzle that’s entirely within your control. To be sure, you can’t know if anyone will really read your submission closely, but you can be sure that if your submission has typos, obvious Bluebook errors, or misspellings/miscapitalizations, those will manage to get noticed.

Don’t give a prospective employer any reason to discount you.

OCI is competitive enough as it is.

Here are some mistakes I’ve seen made repeatedly in your drafts.

Incorrect capitalization.

The word “Congress” should be capitalized.  The word “congressional” should not.

Misspelling of “judgment.”

In legal writing, leave out the first “e” from “judgement.”  Always spell the word “judgment.”  That is how the official rules are written, and that is how lawyers spell the word. Your spellcheck will not pick up on this one, as both spellings are correct in non-legal writing.

Incorrect capitalization of court.

The only time the word “court” should be capitalized is when you’re referring to:

(1) a proper court name;

(2) the U.S. Supreme Court; or

(3) the court in which your case pends.



Amanda Haverstick

Amanda is the author of the popular #Dear1L blog, founder of Writing Law Tutors, and legal writing coach for lawyers and law students.  

Amanda previously spent 20 years as a Labor & Employment lawyer in BigLaw and as an in-house counsel at a Fortune 500 company. She has also served as a career services consultant assisting law students at one of the nation’s top law schools.


Dear 1L,

I aspire to simplify and improve the quality of your law school journey and to promote your greatest possible success.


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