When you’re writing a legal memo, it’s important to make sure your argument is well received by the intended audience. While most memos are written for senior law firm partners and associates, even junior attorneys can use them as models for their own work.
In this article, we’ll cover some tips on how to write a well-received legal memorandum, including what makes an effective one and how to format yours using sample memos.
|– Understand the purpose and audience of your legal memorandum.
|– Clearly define the legal issue you’re addressing in the memorandum.
|– Present relevant legal rules and precedents to support your analysis.
|– Use a structured format, including headings, to organize your memorandum.
|– Provide a well-reasoned conclusion based on your analysis.
|– Write in a clear, concise, and professional tone.
|– Proofread and edit your memorandum for grammar, spelling, and clarity.
|– Use appropriate legal citations to back up your points.
|– Consider the reader’s perspective and provide necessary context.
|– Seek feedback from colleagues or mentors to improve your writing.
Memo Structure And Guidelines
A memo should be structured in a way that makes it easy for readers to understand. In most cases, this will mean using headings to separate different sections and bullet points or tables to break up the text. You may also use graphics, such as graphs or timelines, to illustrate important points. Here are some other guidelines:
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Keep It Short No More Than 2 Pages Unless Absolutely Necessary
Use subheadings and don’t overcrowd the page with unnecessary information or graphics.
Make sure everything is clear; don’t assume that people know what you’re talking about if you haven’t explained it clearly (use footnotes). If a reader doesn’t understand something in one section of your memo, they may not get through the rest of your memo either!
Create A Clear Structure To Organize Information
The first step to organizing your legal memo is to create a clear structure. You should use headings to organize information, and these headings should be both clear and concise.
Remember that you don’t want to bore your reader with too many words; aim for short, punchy headers that get straight to the point. Headings can also be used as a way of emphasizing key points in an argument or making sure you cover all bases throughout your paper.
You may want to make them bold or underlined so they stand out more easily on the page; however, even if they’re not emphasized physically (through formatting), make sure they are still written clearly enough so that readers don’t miss them!
Also, remember that headings are numbered—elements within each section should be listed consecutively (e.g., “Section 1: Background Facts; Section 2: Legal Analysis; etc.).
Expert legal writing is not just about words; it’s about conveying authority and precision. Explore the guide on creating the look and sound of expert legal writing to enhance your written communication skills.
Aim To Be Brief And Diffuse, to repeat The Same Points In Different And More Detailed Ways Later On
The point of a memo is to communicate, and you want to do that as effectively as possible. So don’t try to cover everything in one memo you’ll be writing and rewriting for weeks. Instead, think of your argument in terms of its core elements: what you’re arguing, who you’re arguing it with, how they might respond, and whether or not they’re right.
The best way to structure your memo is by using Roman numerals (I will call this “the Roman numeral method”). It’s very simple: You start by laying out the whole argument in broad strokes; then you go into detail about each part; finally, you wrap things up by returning to the general points made at the beginning but now with more detail and nuance on each topic than before.
The result should be something like this: “In conclusion…[the last thing said]…which we have seen is true.”[the last thing said]
Limit Your Memo To One Page With No More Than Three Headings
Start with a table of contents. This allows the reader to quickly find the information they’re looking for, and it will help you organize your thoughts.
Next, use headings that clearly outline what each section is about. Headings help readers understand your arguments and allow them to skim through the memo as quickly as possible if they aren’t interested in reading everything word-for-word.
Finally, don’t forget to add an introductory paragraph that explains what your memo is about and why it matters (e.g., “This memorandum analyzes whether…”). This will help readers understand why this memo is important and should be read by others within their organization or industry at large.
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Choose The Right Words To Convey Your Message
Don’t be afraid of using the right words. If you are writing a legal memorandum, then use simple language and avoid complex metaphors and jargon. If you are writing a memo that has to be sent to colleagues in your law firm, then use more formal language than if you were writing a memo for clients.
Use active voice verbs instead of passive voice verbs when possible because they make sentences shorter and easier to read. Inactive voice is often used by lawyers who are trying to make clear what happened without accepting responsibility or blame (example: “The plaintiff filed suit against us”). Active voice is usually clearer (example: “We sued the plaintiff”).
Keep the text as natural as possible (avoid slang).
Avoid slang and colloquialisms.
Use plain language.
Write In an Active Voice And With Short Sentences
Use active verbs, not passive verbs or linking verbs. For example: “I ate the chicken sandwich” is better than “The chicken sandwich was eaten by me”; and “He kicked his dog” is better than “His dog was kicked by him.”
Keep paragraphs short (no longer than three sentences) to keep the reader interested and engaged in your legal memo.
This is especially important when writing a legal memorandum that needs to be read quickly by a judge, who does not have time for long paragraphs or sentences filled with unnecessary details that can easily be omitted without losing anything important from your memo!
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Avoid Keyword Stuffing Your Text With Names And Specific Phrases
Avoid keyword stuffing your text with names and specific phrases. You want to avoid having your memo read like a resume, where you’re listing a bunch of keywords that might be relevant to the reader but don’t tell them anything valuable or interesting about your writing. Keep the text natural, conversational, and easy to read.
Avoid confusing metaphors or long sentences with long words (like “utilize”). This can get confusing for readers who might not be familiar with legal jargon! It also makes it harder for people reading along at home who aren’t lawyers themselves so keep it simple!
Use active voice verbs over passive voice when possible (e.g., “I wrote this memo yesterday afternoon…” vs “This memo was written by me yesterday afternoon…).
The former is more direct; it feels more personal because there are no filler words between actions/themes happening in time (in contrast.
The document was created by me yesterday afternoon….but I didn’t write it alone…it took our whole team working together all week long….and we’re still not sure if any of what’s been said here will help out our client…so much uncertainty out there these days).
Your text should be easy to scan and understand at once, without having to read multiple paragraphs or even sentences.
Your text should be easy to scan and understand at once, without having to read multiple paragraphs or even sentences.
Use Headings To Break Up The Text
Headings Are Not Just For Titles But Can Be Used In Any Section Where You Want A Break In The Flow Of Your Writing
Use bullet points wherever possible to make content easier to scan. This can include things like list formats (using “1” or “a”), tables and charts, and anything else that breaks up the text with visual cues.
When there is information that needs attention but doesn’t belong in a heading or subheading (like a full sentence), use bold text instead of italics so it stands out more clearly from the surrounding text.
Help readers by avoiding complicated or misleading metaphors, similes, or idioms; avoid long sentences that contain long words, and stick with active voice verbs when possible.
Avoid Long Sentences That Contain Long Words
Don’t use metaphors, similes, idioms, and other confusing words. You want your reader to understand what you’re saying. If they don’t understand something, they may not read any further. Also, don’t be too formal in your language; use short sentences and simple words instead of complicated ones.
Use active voice verbs when possible because passive voice can be confusing for readers and it’s harder to find the main idea of a sentence when there are many commas (and other punctuation) used in the middle of a sentence to help break up different ideas or clauses within a sentence.
Rather than at the beginning/end of each clause like active voice does naturally without having too much punctuation used throughout it all over again!
A memo is a great way to communicate your ideas and thoughts. If you want your memo to be well received and understood by the people who read it, however, you’ll need to consider how you use visuals in the document.
Visuals can help break up text and make it easier for readers to understand information. They also help readers remember what they’ve read which means they’re an effective tool for people who are reading through long documents with lots of information in them!
Examples of visuals that can be used in legal memos include charts (graphs), tables (tables), images (photographs), and graphs/charts/maps/etc.
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Your Memo Should Aid Readers In Finding What They Are After Quickly And Thoroughly
To write a well-received memo, you should make sure that the reader can easily find what they are looking for. To make your memo easy to read and understand, you should use headings, bullet points, and bold text throughout.
You should also use subheadings so that the information is broken down into smaller chunks which will help your readers scan the content more quickly.
The images in this memo help break up text and make it easy to scan through without having to read every word.
The purpose of a memo is to convey information and ideas to the reader. It should give them the tools they need to make their own decision or take action on what’s written in the document. If you follow these tips, it will help ensure that your memos are well received by readers who can easily understand what you have written.
Explore these additional resources to enhance your understanding of writing effective legal memoranda:
CUNY School of Law – Legal Writing Resources: Access a comprehensive collection of legal writing resources, including guides on crafting well-structured legal memoranda.
Annotated Legal Memo Example: Dive into an annotated example of a legal memo to gain insights into proper organization and content presentation.
Monash University – Law Legal Memo Samples: Review annotated samples of legal memos from Monash University, showcasing different approaches to effective legal writing.
What is the purpose of a legal memorandum?
A legal memorandum serves to provide a concise and structured analysis of legal issues, helping attorneys communicate research and advice to clients or colleagues.
How should I structure a legal memorandum?
A standard legal memorandum typically consists of sections such as the issue, rule, analysis, conclusion, and recommendations, providing a systematic approach to presenting legal arguments.
What are the key components of an effective legal argument?
An effective legal argument should include a clear statement of the legal issue, a comprehensive analysis of relevant laws and precedents, and a logically reasoned conclusion based on the analysis.
How can I improve the clarity of my legal writing?
To enhance the clarity of your legal writing, focus on using precise language, organizing your thoughts logically, and avoiding excessive use of jargon or complex terminology.
Are there any specific formatting guidelines for legal memoranda?
Formatting guidelines for legal memoranda may vary, but they often include using headings, numbering sections, and adhering to a consistent citation style such as Bluebook or APA.
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