A legal memorandum (memo for short) is a document most lawyers use when responding to any questions raised by clients and/or other lawyers. Time, expediency and technology have brought about changes in the length of a memo, most people would prefer to get their legal advice ‘fast’ and ‘short,’ lawyers have responded by making memorandums shorter than they were in the past. Here are some quick tips on how to write using a legal memorandum format.
In its most complete form, the legal memo is structured around the following format:
- Brief answer
- Stating the facts central to the question/issue
- A discussion on the question/issue
- Wrapping-up with a conclusion.
Each of these sections is discussed further below:
- Question – This section will lay out the legal question(s) arising out of the client’s case. It could be a single question on a point of law, or it could contain several questions on different points. In case of the latter, each question should be in separate numbered paragraphs.
- Brief Answer - The brief/short answer section, as the term implies, answers the question(s) raised in the previous section. The answers should be very brief and to the point and list only legal facts rather than facts of the case.
- Statement of Facts – This section should provide all the relevant facts on the questions raised, including background information, dates, parties involved, etc, and should be laid down in a systematic and organized manner. Other points which should be included in the statement should be:
- applicable law, including the exact text of the relevant portions, if required
- any rules and regulations, legislative and court guidelines, etc, if necessary
- Discussion – This forms the main body of the legal memorandum and will contain the following sub-sections:
- Thesis – about a paragraph in length, listing the main issues of the case and the legal rules applicable to these issues.
- Describe how each rule applies to the case in hand, if there are multiple issues, then each issue must be addressed separately, using sub-headings if necessary, and cite relevant precedents and cases which may be applicable.
- Conclusion – Summarize the overall issue, state the laws and rules which are applicable to the issue. Conclude with your recommendations.
With a little bit of trial and error, you will find that writing in the legal memorandum format is quite easy after all. Besides, practice makes perfect!