How to Write a Memorandum Outlining Legal Issues Within a Case


As a rule, when an attorney needs an answer to a specific legal question related to particular case, a paralegal, law student (intern) or a junior attorney will research the issues posed by the question and write up the results in the form of a legal memorandum.

Legal memos should take a neutral position, without advocating for either party, while highlighting both favorable and unfavorable findings.

Although formats can vary among law firms for internal memos (and even among law schools), there are generally accepted elements that should be included in any legal memo: the heading, the question, the short answer, the facts, a discussion and the conclusion.

Things You'll Need

  • The legal question to be answered

Research the question and outline the memo

  • Compose the heading of the memo. Center the title "Legal Memorandum" first, followed by a blank line. Format the next four lines flush on the left margin and label them as follows: "TO:"; "FROM:"; "RE:"; and "DATE:".

  • In the first section, state the question asked by the requesting attorney (verbatim, if possible).

  • Using the standard memo elements, research the question and briefly note key information pertaining to each section of the memo. These notes should concentrate on statutes, legal precedents and facts that support both sides of the case.

Draft the memo from the research

  • Transfer the heading and the question sections from the outline.

  • Write your succinct overall conclusion and a brief explanation of how you reached that conclusion in the "short answer" section. Begin with a simple "yes" or "no" (or a "likely yes" or "likely no") and follow it with four or five sentences supporting your conclusion.

  • Begin the facts section with the chronological events of the case. In general, this section restates only factual details and may include any particulars likely to add context for the requesting attorney or affect the judge's rulings. Do not state opinion or apply legal reasoning in this section. Only background information needs be included here.

  • Reference all cases, legal principles and possible opposing arguments in the discussion section. Identify the issues and the applicable rules, statutes and case law (with citings). Then, illustrate how they apply to the question and the short answer already stated. Refer to the resources used in the research and summarize their relevance to the case. The discussion is usually the longest section, acting as the core of the memo. Any insight or knowledge of judges, opposing attorneys, witnesses or other factors can be relayed in this section as well, if it will add context or help the attorney in making decisions or taking action in the case.

  • Provide an analysis of the research and any recommendations for further action in the conclusion. State the likelihood of a favorable outcome and the level of certainty that such an outcome can be predicted. Present the conclusion in a brief summary of no more than a paragraph or two, distilling all other sections as they relate to the original question.


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