Drafting a Law Office Memorandum
Writer's Questions: Focusing on Your Audience
1. Have you communicated specifically and completely the issues you will address at the outset of the memorandum? Have you avoided making assumptions about what the legally-trained reader will know (or will "fill in" if there are gaps in what you present) as you draft a statement of the legal issues?
2. What information should you include in your facts section to ensure a clear and accurate explanation of the procedural and factual context of your issue(s)?
3. What conventions of legal method and usage will a legally-trained reader expect you to know (for example, using appropriate terms to describe judicial rulings, distinguishing a judicial opinion's holding from dicta, addressing a statute before discussing a case that applies it)?
4. What level of detail concerning facts and judicial reasoning will a legally-trained reader expect to see in your discussion of cases? Have you addressed apparent shifts and/or seeming tensions in the law?
5. What connections will your reader expect you to draw between relevant legal authority (e.g., cases) and the facts of your case (the application of law to fact)? Does your application of the law to your facts make those connections clear?
6. What use of paragraph structure and paragraph length will most effectively communicate the principal ideas in your analysis? How can your use of thesis and transitional sentences clarify the ideas, and the relationships between/among them, that you develop in each paragraph?
7. Has your citation to legal authority, including, where appropriate, use of signals and explanatory parentheticals, illustrated clearly the proposition you are citing? Does your placement of citations - either in a separate citation sentence or in a clause within a textual sentence - foreground the proposition you are discussing and avoid "interrupting" or "cluttering" your text?
8. What will your reader expect, and what inferences might the reader draw, from your format and visual presentation (including placement and form of citations) and sentence-level editing (e.g., grammar, punctuation, spelling)?