WRITING AN OFFICE MEMORANDUM
If you work as a paralegal or law clerk after your first or second year of law school, you will most likely spend some of your time researching and writing objective memoranda, or interoffice memos. Typically, an attorney asks you to provide a realistic analysis of the law as it applies to the facts of a client’s case. The purpose is to inform – not persuade. Although you should remember which conclusion favors your client, also keep in mind that you will represent the client most effectively by being objective and realistic.
The memo might be read many times – possibly, over a period of months or years by several different attorneys, including the writer, who may use it as a resource long after it is drafted. The attorney will use the information contained in the memo to advise the client and may use it to prepare a document that will ultimately be filed in court. For example, a partner may be asking you whether a particular client has a valid legal claim. If you conclude that the answer is “yes,” then this will probably turn into a lawsuit. At that point, some parts of the memo may be incorporated when the complaint is drafted. The memo might me consulted a third time when the attorney responds to a motion to dismiss; a fourth time while drafting interrogatories; a fifth time before making a motion for summary judgment; a sixth time before trial; and a seventh during an appeal; and so on.
PARTS OF MEMO
1. A memorandum heading
2. The Issue (sometimes called Question Presented) states the question(s) that the memorandum resolves. The Issue also itemizes the few facts that you predict to be crucial to the answer. (Such as travel expenses to out-of-state, keeping child out of danger, and commission of crime). The reader should understand the question without having to refer to the facts. 3. Brief Answer (sometimes called Conclusion) states the writer’s prediction and summarizes concisely why it is likely to happen. Some writers begin with a direct response such as “yes” or “probably not.” Our book says that they do not prefer this. Sometimes this is client or partner driven. Also, some questions lend themselves to answers such as “yes” or “no.” Allusion to determinative facts and rules. Do not omit key facts. Begin by just re-stating your issue as a declarative sentence. Do not omit the reasoning. Do not include citation to authority or application of relevant law. Many attorneys only read this part. 4. Facts set out the facts on which the prediction is based. 5. Discussion is the largest and most complex part of memo. It proves the conclusion set out in brief answer. If the discussion is highly detailed or analyzes several issues, it should be broken down into subheadings.
Here is what the memo will look like and more information on each section.
Senior Partner [Please block-indent so that the information lines up, as demonstrated] FROM:
(date assignment is submitted)
(A concise label for the issue considered: mention the parties; your firm will file your Memo by names and cause of action--and, perhaps, by jurisdiction)
The proper format is always double-spaced. Do not double-double space between sections. Plain old, regular double-space is sufficient.
Here, recite all material facts, usually in chronological order. A "material" fact is a "dispositive" fact, or one upon which the outcome will depend. It is a fact that will affect the outcome in one way or another. Please include all material procedural facts as well as all material substantive facts. This means that it is essential to include all relevant times, dates, and places. You should begin with an "overview" sentence that sets the full context and begins to describe the problem presented. Please review your reading and as many samples as possible to understand both the...
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