Best Practices for Writing Effective Legal Email and MemosParalegal Resource
June 27, 2014 — 6,462 views
Best Practices for Writing Effective Legal Email and Memos
When a partner or associate asks for a legal memo or email regarding a legal topic, he or she is asking for a complete analysis of one or more legal topics. This memo can help form the basis of important decisions, such as whether or not a case should be taken. Additionally, a legal memo can establish the foundation for other legal documents, such as preliminary motions, motions in limine and briefs to the court. These guidelines can help provide the foundation for strong legal writing.
Write for Your Audience
Before writing one sentence on a legal pad or typing one line in a computer, it is important to understand who you are writing for. One partner may want a basic analysis of the legal issues involved with answers right up front while another may prefer a more thorough analysis that builds on the prior section. Knowing what is expected can help an individual to use legal writing techniques that are best suited for the situation.
Identify the Issues
This is a critical preliminary step to creating effective legal writing. You should be aware of the major legal issues that are involved in the case. Narrowing down the scope of your legal memo or email can help you hone your attention to the details that really mater. Counterarguments should also be included in the memo.
Organize the Memo
Memos have standard sections, such as the statement of the case, issue presented and conclusion. Besides the standard sections, include sections for each sub-part of an issue that arises. For example, if one of the issues involves a particular crime or tort, include a sub-section for each element of the crime or tort. This can help clarify each component that is involved in the case and make the memo or email easier to digest.
Start Strong, End Strong
Include the answer in every relevant first sentence. This allows a lawyer to get a quick answer to the question that he or she has. It should include a definitive answer to the legal issue at hand and should not include boilerplate language. Likewise, the last sentence should end with a conclusive sentence that is based on the preceding content.
Include the Other Side
While a lawyer may want to hear that he or she is right about a particular issue, it is more important that you give a clear analysis of the issues at hand. Do not try to manipulate the facts so that you are only giving one side to the argument. Include an analysis of the facts that hurt your case, as well as the relevant cases that stand contrary to your position.
Legal memos require you to strike a balance between thoroughly researching the topic at hand while keeping the content as concise as possible. This balance can be achieved by including detailed headings and clear section breaks so that a reader can easily follow your logic and argument as he or she reads the legal memo or email.