Most memoranda serve one of two functions: analyzing a client’s specific legal problem or answering questions that the client’s particular situation poses. Before writing, a lawyer will research the applicable mandatory (binding) case law and the persuasive (nonbinding) case law to determine the legal landscape. The lawyer will also review any applicable statutory provisions or regulatory issuances from administrative bodies.
After finishing the research process, the lawyer will then interpret the client’s situation in light of the applicable law. An office memorandum sums up the lawyer’s analysis and supplies the facts the lawyer relied upon in reaching the conclusion. The main point of the memorandum should be to advise whether a client can lawfully engage in conduct or predict how a decision maker will rule on a legal problem.
The intended audience for the memo should not have to read the cases, statutes, or regulations the memo discusses to understand the legal landscape. Rather, the point of the memo is to summarize the pertinent law in a digestible, short format that encapsulates the situation succinctly for the reader. After a brief review of the office memorandum, an attorney who was formerly unfamiliar with the case law should be able to give well-founded advice to a client. Ensuring the memo follows a prescribed format keeps it easy for the reader to find the information he or she needs.