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How to write an internal legal memo

Updated March 23, 2017

Laws change frequently in the UK due to the use of prior case law as precedent, as well as new laws and codes that are enacted. This situation makes it easy for a barrister to lose track of the status of the law. When a barrister is trying a case, if she needs information regarding how the existing law treats a specific issue, she will ask an associate to write an internal legal memo. A legal memo updates her on the status of the law, and may offer a prediction as to how the court will decide the issue.

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  1. Write the header of the legal memo. The header is comprised of four lines indicating the purpose of the memo, the parties to the memo and the date. The four lines of the header are "To:", "From:", "Date:" and "Re:".

  2. State the question, or questions, that the internal legal memo will address in the "Questions Presented" section. Each legal issue that the internal legal memo will discuss is a separate question. You may state the question in the "whether" form or an "under-does-when" form. For example, a legal issue statement can written as "whether a person commits trespass when he steps on his neighbour's garden to avoid being hit by a car," or "Under the common law, does a person commit trespass when he steps on his neighbour's garden to avoid being hit by a car?"

  3. Summarise the answer to the question in the "Brief Answer" section. Start the paragraph with a very sentence of "yes," "no," "probably," or "probably not." State the relevant reasons that lead one to the conclusion at which you have arrived. Keep this section between two and four sentences. Be assertive and clear in your brief answer so that the other attorney can clearly identify your position.

  4. Include all of the relevant facts in the "Facts of the Case" section. Avoid all extraneous facts and provide only the facts that are relevant. Do not only include the facts that bolster your conclusion, but be sure to include the facts that may negatively impact your conclusion. A relevant fact is a fact that makes your conclusion more or less likely to be correct.

  5. Analyse all of the relevant facts with the case law and statutes in the "Discussion" section. In this section, you must tie the facts to the governing law. In discussing the case law, you must include the facts of the precedential cases and the court's holding, and state how the holding affects the facts of your case. Include whether the facts of the case law are similar or dissimilar from your case and how this may affect your reasoning.

  6. Further, include any relevant statute and any case law that interprets the statute. Again, you must include any negative case law or statutes so that the attorney reading the internal memo can be prepared for opposing counsel's potential arguments and to disclose to a judge, if necessary.

  7. Restate your conclusion and the relevant facts and analysis in the "Conclusion" section. The conclusion must be a brief synopsis of the answer to the legal question, a statement of the legal rules from the controlling case law, and an analysis of the facts of your case in regard to the case law. Make this section concise and keep it under one page.

  8. Tip

    Ask the attorney for whom you are writing the internal legal memo if there is any additional information, material or sections that she requires in her legal memos.

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About the Author

Hal Bartle has been writing professionally since 2009. He has been published on various websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Saint Joseph's University and a Juris Doctor from Duquesne University School of Law.

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