The first thing
to remember when writing a legal document,
including a memorandum of
law is that clarity is what you aim for. You
must be clear about what you want to say, and
how you want the reader to understand what you
are saying. Be precise about what you are
writing. You cannot persuade a court to adopt
your point of view if it is vague or ambiguous.
Next, write clearly using as little legalese as
possible. Write as if you are conversing with
the reader. Write to be understood; don’t show
off with long legal phrases or words for which
the reader needs a legal dictionary. Use shorter
words instead of longer words, and shorter
sentences. Use strong nouns and verbs instead of
adjectives and adverbs. An example of this is
“The rule applies here” instead of “The rule is
applicable here”. Cut unnecessary words such as
“As demonstrated” and do not use phrases such as
“we respectfully request that...”. Do not use
Keep your paragraphs short, limited to four or
five sentences if possible. Use headings
and subheadings to keep your reader’s thoughts
organized while he/she is reading your
memorandum. Try to avoid footnotes and
The first paragraph of your memorandum should be
as attention-getting as any other
lead-in piece of writing. Draw your reader in.
Make it interesting. Be creative and promote
your argument. Show that you have style. In your
preliminary statement or immediately after it,
summarize, in a few paragraphs or lines, why
your reader should grant the relief sought.
Your statement of disputed facts should be a
succinct and clear paragraph in which each
disputed fact, or fact as the case may be, is
stated simply. Next, start your arguments.
Again, give each point you wish to argue, a
heading or subheading. Be thorough in your
headings. An example would be “The Court Should
Grant Summary Judgment Because There is No Valid
Lien to Avoid.” Finally, give a conclusion as to
why your reader should grant the relief sought.
If this is an
interoffice memorandum, the format is the same,
except that you are not asking for relief, but
giving law and argument regarding the issues or
questions that you have been assigned. An
internal memorandum is a discussion of the case.
Always think carefully about the persuasive
force of the precedent, and discuss the
holding of that case in your memorandum. Tell
the reader the holding of any case you cite,
first. Then discuss how your case relates to the
Use the parties names in your memorandum, not
their status. Say “Mr. Smith” instead of
“the defendant”. Shorten names, such as
“National Tree Huggers Association” to “National
Huggers”, but do not use letters as a short
form, such as NTHA.
Try not to use block quotations too much. Most
readers skip over these. If you must use
a block quotation, summarize the substance in it
in the sentence immediately preceding it. You
will lose your reader using block quotations if
you precede them with “In Smith vs. Jones the
court held...”. Tease your reader by using a
full summary such as “In Smith vs. Jones the
court held that our client’s argument is valid
and the Jones argument fails.
Finally, be sure to proof read your memorandum.
There should be no misspellings,
typographical errors or grammatical errors. When
there are errors your point can be lost as they
are a distraction to the reader.