Attorneys work to further their clients' interests by identifying a problem that the legal system can address, understanding the legal rules and remedies relevant to a client's situation, and using the relevant law to resolve the client's question or problem. When attorneys understand the law, they can help ensure that their clients comply with the law, act in a manner that is protected by law, attain legal remedies, or can be protected from the legal claims of others. Many legal writing tasks — e.g., drafting memoranda, briefs or motions to a court, agreements, or wills — require an attorney to examine whether the client has any legal claims or is vulnerable to legal claims of others. In accomplishing these tasks, the attorney must either predict what a court will do or argue what a court ought to do, given a particular set of facts. Such predictions and arguments reflect the attorney's understanding of the way courts make new legal decisions based on existing legal authority. Typically, lawyers render legal predictions in a law office memorandum. Lawyers argue for a particular outcome, i.e., write with the purpose of persuasion, when their audience is a decision maker having authority over the client's situation.

When, as a lawyer (or a law student), you are asked to write an office memo, a brief, or an exam answer, you will be expected to apply legal rules to a specific set of facts to reach a conclusion, to identify the important legal questions, to answer them, and to explain how you arrived at your answers. It is generally accepted that a discussion of the existing law precedes its application to the facts at hand. This may seem counterintuitive to some; after all, a legal thinker must first obtain and process the facts before the relevant legal doctrine can be identified and applied. Nonetheless, from a legally trained reader's standpoint, a written legal analysis is most useful when it is organized around a statement of the law and when the existing legal landscape is fully explicated before the writer applies the law to the client's situation. To put it more succinctly, first you discuss the relevant law, and then you apply the law to your facts.

This section provides more detailed discussions of the paradigm of legal analysis most commonly used in law office memoranda and briefs to a court: