Wondering how to write a legal memorandum for dummies? You just need to follow a few steps and include certain sections to produce this content.3 min read
Updated August 11, 2020:
About the Writing Process for a Legal Memorandum
How the memorandum is structured depends on certain factors, including:
- The purpose of the memorandum
- The reader's needs
- The nature of the situation or problem
- Legal findings
- Subject logic
- The range of research
- A standard approach
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Writing a legal memorandum relies on proper research. You must research thoroughly and carefully before you're ready to write a memorandum. When laying out the format for a legal memorandum, note that the following sections should be included:
- A statement of the legal issue
- An answer to the legal issue
The next step in creating the memorandum is deciding on a logical pattern of readability. This means writing the research in a way that's easily comprehended and digested. The memorandum should be clear so the reader understands the case and the laws that affect it.
Include in the heading the author's identity, the recipient of the memorandum, the date, who the client is, and the subject. Use a numbering sequence in the heading; there will most likely be multiple legal memorandums attached to the case.
Include a brief statement. Begin by answering with a 'yes' or 'no' and follow with a clear and concise explanation for why you gave the particular answer. Include any facts for support.
Table of Contents
It's helpful to make a table of contents for the reader. A breakdown of the approach, structure, and analysis allows the reader to find specific parts of the memorandum quickly and easily.
Statement of Facts
This statement section covers the presentation of the client's information in an objective manner. The facts section covers the relevant facts you used to prepare and research the memorandum. Listing the client information and the facts means the reader will be accessing the same information you did. This will prevent any confusion.
If applicable, use a diagram, chart, or table to summarize and outline the relevant facts.
Write the information in chronological order if applicable. In some situations, a different order may work better. Use whatever order makes the information clear and logical. If any facts used pose a disagreement or hint of uncertainty, state this, and explain both sides. When laying out the format, you can place the facts before or after the issues section.
Memorandum Example Army
Answer all questions completely and directly. Don't be indirect, inconclusive, or indecisive. Base your answers on a reason that's legally supported. Don't use phrases such as 'it seems that' or 'it would appear that.' This is an equivocal language.
If relevant questions go unanswered, you may be in a position where assumptions must be made. A separate section can be created in this case, or the questions can be included in the statement of facts section. If you choose the second option, rename the 'Statement of Facts' to 'Facts and Assumptions.'
This section is a brief one-sentence statement. It should define the legal question and include a few facts. Keep it descriptive and concise for more effect. For multiple issues, list them in the order they'll be discussed.
The most important issue should be the lead-in. It must be written in a simple, precise, brief, and articulate manner. List all issues and their related sub-issues in a logical, numbered order.
There are two ways to discuss legal issues. The general format is Issue/Rule/Analysis/Conclusion (I.R.A.C). The second option is Conclusion/Issue/Rule/Analysis/Conclusion (C.I.R.A.C). The second option has become the preferred format since it's clearer for the reader to follow.
The discussion section is vital as it describes the law and its application to the case. This section should include a minimum of one strategy as well as the pros and cons of using that strategy.
You can include a conclusion with the statement of facts section or create a conclusion at the end that's a summary of the memorandum. It should also include a brief outline of the legal analysis.
If you need help with how to write a legal memorandum, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.
Like most forms of writing, memos come with so many rules, instructions, and suggestions that it's easy to forget a few. Since we've already addressed the dos and don'ts of how to write a memo, let's take a moment to look at these rules in practice.
While reading over the below memo examples, pay special attention to the key features of a memo. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it addressed to the right audience?
- Does the subject line accurately convey its contents?
- Does it anticipate and address potential objections?
- Is it formatted clearly and consistently?
When considering each memo's main text, pay close attention to the structure. The opening paragraph should restate the memo's purpose indicated in the subject line. Subsequent paragraphs should build on this opening statement and explain the memo's purpose in detail. Unnecessary information should be removed, and word choice should remain straightforward and professional.
Memo Example 1: A General Office Memo
To: All Staff
From: The Manager
Date: May 27, 2010
Subject: Inappropriate use of time on Google Doodle games
It has come to my attention that many in the office have been spending time on the Google home page microgames. This memo is a reminder to use your work hours for work.
According to a recent article, the estimated daily cost of people collectively playing these games instead of working is over $120 million—which is calculated based on the daily average increased time spent on the Google home page (36 seconds).
If these estimates are applied to our 600 office employees, this results in a nearly $700 weekly loss.
This is a conservative estimate considering the extensive discussions that occur about beating the office's current high score. The extra cost quickly adds up.
Of course, we don't want you to view our organization as a place of drudgery and draconian rules. I encourage a fun and competitive environment, and I recognize that we certainly won't be profitable if you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your jobs. This is just a reminder to be careful with your use of company time.
Wright, Tony. (2010). The Tragic Cost of Google Pac-Man – 4.82 million hours. Retrieved May 26, 2010 from: https://blog.rescuetime.com/2010/05/24/the-tragic-cost-of-google-pac-man-4-82-million-hours/
Memo Example 2: A Departmental Memo
To: Computer Programming Division
From: Vice President Lumbergh
Date: February 19, 2016
Subject: Attaching cover sheets to TPS reports
This is to remind the division that, starting today, we are now filing all Testing Procedure Specification (TPS) reports with new cover sheets.
The reason for this change is simple. In addition to a new format, the cover sheets provide a summary of the report as well as the updated legal copy. The new cover sheets also include Initech's new logo.
Though this change may initially seem like a headache and an extra step, it is necessary to include the new cover sheets due to their updated information. Failing to do so will result in a confusing and inaccurate product delivered to our customers.
Please be sure to follow this new procedure.
Memorandum Example Army
Vice President Lumbergh
Memorandum Example Format
By following these memo examples and addressing your audience in clear, concise language, you'll be able to effectively communicate with your coworkers in all your correspondence.