How to Write an Opinion Letter of Law

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An opinion letter of law is a letter from counsel to a client. This form of communication is used at different stages throughout the legal process. In an opinion letter, an attorney may give initial counsel once he has been retained, update a client about an ongoing case or provide supplemental information after a trial or settlement agreement. Opinion letters can be instructive, advising the client how to act, and/or explanatory, clarifying the law or the judicial process to the client.

  • Make the language accessible. Attorneys are notorious for using legalese in letters and communication, and this kind of language is difficult for lay persons to comprehend. Do not avoid legal terminology altogether, since it does, to an extent, lend your letter credibility to the non-specialist. However, explain legalese to the reader in terms that she can understand.

  • Reproduce and explain the law being relied upon, if applicable. The opinion letter is intended to explain the law to the client and to express the attorney's opinion about the particulars of a case. In letters to the court or other counsel, it suffices to cite the law or code, but an opinion letter should reproduce on the page or on supplemental pages relevant codes or sections since the client probably does not have the resources or knowledge to reference cited law. Explain cited law in a paragraph or two to clarify to the client why this law is being invoked and how it applies.

  • Review prior letters to the recipient, if they exist. Even if this is your first letter to the recipient, other counsel from the same firm may have already communicated with him in writing. It is irresponsible to repeat information that has already been shared, unless this information should be reinforced. If your letter duplicates content sent in a previous letter, it may confuse the client or send the message that the firm has not made progress on the case.

  • Remind the client of the attorney-client confidentiality agreement. Underscore that it is imperative that the client not show the letter to third parties or discuss its content with anyone. If desired, bold this message for emphasis.

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