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GUIDELINES IN

DRAFTING A LEGAL
MEMORANDUM
Manila Law College

The initial stages of writing


Legal Theory/Theme of case/Purpose
What is the purpose of the document?
What relief do you want from the court?
Why is your client entitled to this relief?
What is the legal route to get that relief?
Audience
Who is your audience?
What do they need to know?
What do they already know?
Why should they care or keep reading?
What will the audience do with your document?

Initial stages
Time management/Deadlines
When did you receive the assignment?
When is the document due?
When is the research due?
When is an outline due?
When is the draft due?
When are the edits due?
When is proofreading due?

Initial stages
Pre-writing
Have you brainstormed and jotted down ideas, bullets, and
questions?
Have you organized your ideas into a chart?
Have you organized your ideas into an outline?
Writing
Have you built your document by writing quickly, making sure not to

stop to edit while you write?


If you experienced writers block, did you keep writing by focusing
on an easier section?
Have you set aside large chunks of time to write or have you tried
to write something every day, even if it is for a short time?

Revising
Have you used roadmaps to give the reader context

before detail?
Did you logically develop your ideas, going from general
to specific?
Have you used headings and subheadings in a logical
order and structure?
Could the reader throw a dart at any page and understand
how each point relates to the thesis?
Is your analysis complete and organized?

Revising
Have you stated your conclusion at the outset?
Have you then stated the rule or legal test/standard?
Have you then explained the law or proved the rule?
Have you then applied the law to your clients case?
Have you then stated your conclusion?
If writing a persuasive document, did you put your

strongest points/arguments first?


Have you been consistent in your organization, your
substance, and your language?

Editing
Is every legal principle supported by relevant, credible and

persuasive authority, including positive and negative


sources?
Have you thoroughly explained the law by stating the
facts, holding, and reasoning of the precedenta?
Have you made fact to fact analogies?
Have you applied the reasoning of the precedent to our
facts, anticipating counterarguments?
Have you stated your conclusion?
Have you written the number of each step in the margin to
make sure you made structured and complete analogies,
and you did not skip any steps?

Editing
Have you dealt with potential weaknesses and

counterarguments?
If using statutory analysis, have you applied the language
used in the statute to the facts of your case?
If using rule-based analysis, have you applied each part of
the rule to your clients case?
Have you stated and applied policy and fairness
considerations to your clients facts?
Have you used strong topics/thesis sentences as the first
sentence of each paragraph that reflects the point of the
paragraph and utilizes the position of your client?
Have you reviewed the paragraph structure? Is each
paragraph about one idea?

Editing
Have you reviewed your paragraph length? Is it too long?

If a paragraph is a whole page or more, it is too long. If a


paragraph is less than three sentences, much better.
Have you used transitions between paragraphs and
between sentences to the guide the reader and show how
your points/thoughts relate to each other?

Proofreading
Are your citations in the correct place?
Are your citations in the correct format?
Did you omit passive voice?
Are your sentences expression of complete thoughts or

are they fragments?


Do you have any run-on sentences?
Are your subjects and verbs in each sentence close
together or do they have long clauses between them?
Have you used imprecise language, like it is or this is?
Have you relied on bolstering language, such as clearly
or obviously?

Proofreading
Have you used plain language and omitted legalese?
Have you used the correct word when choosing between

that and which?


Have you been concise and omitted surplus words or
irrelevant information?
Have you reviewed for the proper use of contractions
(lets for let; Im for I am; Isnt or aint for is not) vs.
possessive pronouns (i.e., its vs. its and thats vs. thats)

Proofreading
Are you using semicolons properly?
Have you used commas in appropriate places?
Did you spell check?
Did you check for typos?
Did you follow the correct format? (efficient use of paper rule)
Did you use the proper tone objective vs. subjective? (a subjective voice is an

instance were one addresses a particular argument in a loud, passionate and


dominating manner. They think they are 100% accurate when discussing a point,
be it law, liability issues, etc. On the other hand, objective tone means a tone that
is informing and not patronizing, it merely attempts to discuss the matter at hand
without any tone of passion
If writing a persuasive document, have you utilized persuasive techniques?
Did you tell a story and make your arguments favorable to your client? Have you
emphasized favorable facts and deemphasized unfavorable ones?
Have you reviewed your word choice to see if it promotes a persuasive?
Have you suggested the conclusion you want the reader to reach?
Have you emphasized the burden of proof or standard of review if it is favorable
to your client?

CLASS DISMISSED!
This Legal writing techniques was culled from the Legal Practice
Skills Program, Suffolk University Law School, Boston MA.
Next meeting, we will discuss:
(BRING A YELLOW PAD PAPER FOR EXERCISES)
1. Getting the facts right
2. Knowing the legal dispute
3. Identifying issues
Threshing out the argument
5. Writing the argument
6. Graded pre-final exams (BRING YOUR OWN YELLOW PAD
PAPER)
4.