Email and Memo Writing Techniques for ParalegalsThe Paralegal Resource
April 8, 2013 — 2,396 views
A legal memo is a study that analyzes a legal issue, and presents an argument on the legal steps with which a lawyer plans to approach the issue. There are no rigid structures or rules for drafting documents like legal memos and emails, though it calls for a specific set of writing skills. The following is intended to be some general guidelines to legal writing but is in no way to be considered an authoritative last-word on the subject.
Be Aware of your Reader
As with most types of writing, drafting documents for legal purposes is much more effective if you know who your reader is and what they expect your documents to contain. For example, the requirements for addressing and presenting a case to a judge will be different from briefing your supervising attorney at the law firm about the case. The judge might not be aware of the facts of the case and might need you to elaborate on them, while your supervising lawyer might simply need an explanation of a course of action on the case. The sort of language you use and the amount of legal detail you include is all dictated by the kind of audience that is going to read it.
Write to the Point
Remember that writing a legal memo is not a showcase of your writing skills but is a presentation of the facts of a case, how the law is applicable to them, and what you intend to do with it. It is a good practice to write in a straightforward manner, addressing what is relevant to the case in necessary steps, and avoiding going along tangents that might not directly relate to the matter at hand.
Ensure that the scope of the document is as narrow as possible. Pick one issue or a few closely related issues and focus on presenting your analysis and arguments about them. You may make brief mentions of other matters of concern as well, but do not dwell on them.
In drafting legal documents, one needs to be aware that the person reading it might not have all the time in the world for it. Hence, it is better to make the memo as brief as possible. But being brief should not take priority over describing the argument in necessary detail. You need to strike a balance between presenting the case in detail and being brief about it. Organize the discussion section of your memo to include clear and well-defined headings. This will assist the reader in going through the document faster and more effectively.
Organizing the Memo
Another good practice is to organize the memo by laws or legal sections involved with the issues. Mark all issues you intend to address in a case, look up the laws governing them, and sort your analysis about the issues, according to the laws under which they come. Also make a note of the sub-laws and components that a law may have and organize your analysis into sections and sub-sections dealing with the corresponding laws and sub-laws.