Write Me a Memo
Canadian Legal Education Annual Review, pp. 217-228, 2010
12 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2011
Date Written: 2010
A legal memo’s paradigmatic role is to communicate the results of legal research and analysis to another legally trained professional, with a view to helping a client decide on a course of action. It follows that a memo is balanced and objective, distinguishing it from persuasive writing, as in a trial or appellate brief. The article summarizes common rubrics for structuring a memo. The importance of facts and how they are constructed is summarized, with the emphasis on weaving together facts and law to create meaningful, specific issue statements, with sub-issues derived from propositions of law. The article then discusses the benefit of a brief answer, and illustrates four types of reasoning used in legal memos: rule-based, analogical, narrative, and policy-based. The article concludes by emphasizing some basics common to all good writing: correct spelling, punctuation and grammar; attention to style and tone; gender neutrality; proper attribution and citation; and the need to back up one’s work, deliver it in a timely manner, and follow up with the reader on the advice given.
Keywords: legal writing
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