Advice on writing and study skills is provided by the Student Academic Success division; if you need further advice you can book a consultation with a Language and Learning Adviser.
Memorandum of advice.
A type of assignment that you may complete in your law degree is a ‘legal memo’. A memo may be addressed to a colleague or supervisor in a law firm (known as an ‘in-house’ memo). This usually outlines the legal issues in a client’s case, and your assessment of that situation in relation to the current law. Another type of memo is a legal policy memo, which may be addressed to a political or organisation responsible for policy change i.e. a submission to a law reform commission.
Occasionally you may be asked to write a 'letter to the client' or the memorandum may be for the client as well as for a legal colleague. Read your assignment instructions carefully to determine who is the audience for the memo.
Content and structure:
Most commercial memoranda will be looking at the issues arising from the client’s questions or from a scenario you are asked to advise on.
For a memorandum looking at policy issues, e.g. a submission to a law reform commission or politician, start by summarising the issues and their significance.
See our Policy Papers guide for more information.
Suggestions for an in-house research memorandum (NB: there is no one 'right' style. Check your assignment instructions carefully.)
For further tips see our 'Law Study Hacks' video on the left hand side of this page.
In practice, at the top of the page will be a file number (usually on the interview record or file note) so that all records on this case are kept together. Not all law school assignments require this, however it may be included.
Below the file number you can include:
Below these details you may write "Re: ______________________ " (Re is short for ‘Regarding’, which would be the client or organisation concerned in the legal matter)
Sometimes, the main part of a memo starts with an executive summary. This sets out the main issues, the main areas under dispute or those that require most analytical depth and discussion, especially if the research indicates this is a contentious area of law. This should suffice to provide enough context for the reader and your conclusions/findings/recommendations on those issues.
You may include a short section outlining the main facts of the case. If you decide to do this in an assignment, try to avoid going into too much detail, especially for relevant facts which will be used in the main discussion.
For each issue, write a separate heading. Apply the IRAC answer structure for each issue, and come to a mini conclusion for each.
End the memo with your overall conclusions about the client's situation in relation to the issues you have discussed. If required, state your recommendations. Be succinct and clear with your conclusions. Be realistic with recommendations and conclusions about the client's situation - avoid being overly positive or negative.You may sign off the memorandum with your name.
Take a look at this interactive tutorial from University of Ottawa, Legal Memos Made Easy. You can choose to take on an example file - you will be briefed on the client's story, receive the assigning lawyer's instructions, and get memo writing advice.
Read this article for ideas on How to Structure Your Legal Memorandum.
Find books on legal writing at call number F15 in the Law library on Level 3, or search for "legal writing" via Search. See, for example:
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