Writing Sample-Overview

The life of a law student, and for that matter an attorney, could be accurately summarized with two words: reading and writing. The ability of an attorney to write is paramount to their level of proficiency within their profession. This includes many different types of writings from letters, to court briefs, to emails, and covers many different styles of writing, from technical to informal. In any case, an attorney/law student must be able to write cogently and in a structured manner that properly gets their point across, while treating the relevant application of the law appropriately.

Because the skill of writing is of such great importance, a writing sample requirement was added to the LSAT. A fact that many examinees will pounce upon is that the writing sample requirement on the LSAT is not a graded section of the exam. This means that the examinee could ace all other parts of the exam and bomb the writing sample and still end up with a great score. The only problem with this theory is that, while not graded, the writing sample is a part of the LSAT and as such, is sent to every law school to which the examinee applies. It is difficult to determine with any real accuracy just how much weight any particular law school admissions office places on the writing sample, but every examinee should attempt to place their best product in front of any admissions staff member.

It is important for the examinee to understand that there is no correct or incorrect answer in the writing sample. The structure of this portion of the LSAT is necessarily different from any other on the exam. For the writing sample, the examinee will be given a brief scenario that could cover any topic. The nature of the topic is not relevant and no external knowledge is required by the examinee. The scenario will direct the examinee to choose one of two paths in the writing sample. This is typically a choice A versus choice B, or a positive or negative type of decision on the part of the drafting examinee. The description of the scenario is followed by stipulations that provide the evidence (be it positive or negative) for the examinee to use in supporting their position. Again, it is important for the examinee to understand that it does not matter which alternative is selected. It is also important, however, that the examinee understand that they are to argue for the position that they select, as well as to argue against the position not selected. This may appear redundant, but it is required that the examinee treat both possible positions, one favorably and one unfavorably, rather than just arguing affirmatively for the position that they choose.

The written product itself must be short and concise. The examinee is provided with the front and backside of a single piece of paper upon which to provide their handwritten response. Additionally, each examinee receives a single piece of scratch paper to use in outlining their writing sample prior to final composition. Because of these small resources, and the thirty-five minute time limit, it is obvious that the examinee must be brief and to the point. A simple structure that is often adopted is to open with a statement identifying the examinee’s position. Following this statement can be a single paragraph utilizing all of the provided evidence that supports the examinee’s position. Next, the examinee should argue against the other position by affirmatively using evidence-or negatively treating the evidence-that supports the counter position. Finally, the examinee should conclude with a brief reiteration of their determination.