Does the writing sample really matter?

The answer is yes! You don’t want to run the risk of blowing off your writing sample and then have a school use it to compare you to another applicant with near identical credentials. Students sometimes ask why it’s even relevant to begin with. Well, you’ll be doing a lot of it in law school! A professor will be able to tell in the first paragraph whether or not your writing is up to par. Below is an example of a writing sample topic.

10/09/2010 LSAT:

The attorneys for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a major pharmaceutical company are choosing an expert scientific witness to testify that a drug produced by the company was responsible for serious side effects. The attorneys have narrowed their choices down to two people. Using the facts below, write an essay in which you argue for choosing one person over the other based on the following criteria:

  • The attorneys want a witness who will be able to communicate technical information in a clear and effective manner to the jury.
  • The attorneys want a witness who is highly knowledgeable in the field of pharmacology.

Dr. Rosa Benally has qualifications similar to those of the defense team’s expert witness in that she has a PhD in pharmacology, teaches at a university, and is highly respected for her scientific research. Dr. Benally recently led a series of studies investigating the side effects of the class of drugs that will be under discussion during the trial. She has served effectively as an expert witness in a number of similar trials over the last five years.

Dr. Josephine Rickman is a medical doctor who also has a PhD in pharmacology. She has a busy medical practice. Dr. Rickman sometimes serves a medical news correspondent on a national news program. She is the author of three best-selling books on medical topics, including one on the pharmacology industry. Dr. Rickman prescribed the drug in question to a number of patients who appeared to have experienced side effects like those to be discussed during the trial.

In this case, a good writing sample will effectively highlight the most compelling evidence in favor of the doctor you recommend, acknowledge her biggest drawback, and then turn that potential negative into positive or explain why it’s inconsequential. You would then acknowledge the strengths of the doctor you chose to not recommend, but explain why she doesn’t quite measure up. Note, there is no right or wrong choice: you can make a sound argument for either!