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Organization of Legal Memoranda . Outline of Closed Memo Parts of Legal Memoranda. Introduction to Office Memoranda. Lawyers communicate legal analysis by letters, motions, appellate briefs but most commonly with the office memo.

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Organization of legal memoranda l.jpg

Organization of Legal Memoranda

Outline of Closed Memo

Parts of Legal Memoranda


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Introduction to Office Memoranda

  • Lawyers communicate legalanalysis by letters, motions,appellate briefs but mostcommonly with the office memo.

  • The office memo presents to a senior lawyer your analysis of the case at any given time.


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Office Memoranda

  • Be objective as opposed to persuasive.

  • Evaluate strengths andweaknesses of the case.

  • The office memo shouldenable the senior attorneyto emphasize the strongerarguments and respond tothe counter-arguments.


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Using a legal tone

  • The objective tone of the memo, unlike a law school essay exam, should NOT convey a detached indifference to the outcome.

  • Be an advocate for your client.

  • Do not abandon a client’s cause to readily but instead recommend ways to overcome weaknesses/counter-arguments in the case.


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Remember Your Audience:

  • Most attorneys will not needa lesson in fundamental legalprocedure, even if that waspart of your research.

  • However, the attorney may notbe a specialist in the field youare researching and thus willexpect to receive core ofinformation about the controlling law.


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Six Parts of an Office Memo

  • Heading

  • Questions Presented

  • Brief Answers

  • Facts

  • Legal Discussion

  • Conclusion


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The Six Parts of the Memo Serve to Accomplish the following:

  • Questions Presented

    • Identify the precise legal issues

  • Brief Answers

    • Answer the precise legal issues

  • Facts Section

    • Records the known facts

  • Discussion Section

    • Identifies and cites the important legal authorities;

    • provides facts, holding and reasoning of the precedent cases;

    • presents a legal analysis of the issues; and

    • predicts the way a judge or jury might rule.


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The Legal Discussion Section:Threshold Issues

  • The order in which you discuss your questions presented (legal issues) depends upon the particular problem or issue.

  • Threshold questions always come first because their application dictates whether analysis of other legal rules are necessary.


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Ordering the Issues

  • For example, if a person is not an owner or keeper or a dog, it does not matter whether he or she had prior knowledge of a vicious propensity.

  • If the problem does not involve a threshold question, argue your stronger issue first to win favor with the reader.


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Organizational Building Blocks for the Legal Discussion Section of the Office Memo

  • ISSUE

    • Draft Point-Headings

  • RULES

    • Use a Rule Paragraph and Road Map

  • ANALYSIS/APPLICATION

    • Use Sub-point headings or topic sentences and transitions

  • CONCLUSION

    • Integrate law/fact/reasoning in the prediction



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The Rule of Law BlocksIllinois Animal Control Act

  • The Illinois Animal Control Act provides as follows:

  • If a dog or other animal , without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where he may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in damages to such person for the full amount of the injury sustained. 510 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. (West 1993)


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Point- Headings : BlocksIn Order to Create them you must…

  • Condense and translate your issues into thesis sentences using the format

  • “prediction-“because”-reasons”

  • I. The court will likely find (prediction) that Host can be classified as Oscar's owner within the meaning of the Animal Control Act because(reasons) Host provided a measure of care that only owners or haborers usually do.

  • II. The court will likely find (prediction) that Stumble did not provoke Oscar within the meaning of the Animal Control Act because(reasons) the dog attack was disproportionate to Stumble’s conduct.

  • Now insert them as point- headings in your outline (I. , II…)



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Remember ! Blocks

  • If your rule of law comes from a statute the rule paragraph should quote and cite the statute

  • Statutory rule paragraphs, rule sentences and case discussions of precedent cases all go in the rules section.


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Continue with a Blocks“Roadmap”

  • “Roadmaps” areintroductory paragraphs that tell your readerwhere you are going. (See hand-out)


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The Road-Map Paragraph Blocks

  • The Roadmap paragraph makes it easier for the reader to follow the progression of your legal analysis by setting out a description of your discussion.

  • Usually this includes identifying for your reader the statutory or common law elements which must be proved in the order you plan to discuss them and identifying which are “at issue.”


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Example Blocks

  • Four elements must be proven to place liability on a defendant under the Illinois Animal Control Act. The plaintiff must first prove that an injury was caused by a dog owned or harbored by the defendant. Next, the plaintiff must prove that he or she did not provoke the attack but was peaceably conducting themselves at the time of the attack.


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Example Blocks

  • Finally, the plaintiff must prove that he or she had a legal right to be at the place where the injury occurred. Nelson v. Lewis, 344 N.E.2d 268, 270 (Ill. App. Ct. 1976) . Because there is no dispute as to whether Stumble had a legal right to be on the property, this memo will address first whether Host is an owner and next whether Stumble provoked the dog under the statute.


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Rule Paragraphs Blocks

  • Remember that you can and should also use rule sentences to explain to your reader the applicable law and any analytical categories.

  • Also remember case discussions of the precedent cases goes in the rules section. Often they may help explain the elements of a statute.


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Structuring Your Legal Analysis: Organizational Building Blocks

  • ANALYSIS/APPLICATION

    • Use point-headings and topic sentences/transitions.


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Sub-Point Headings Blocks

  • Sub-points headings should be used for complex or multi-element Point-headings.

  • Assume for example, that the law stated that provocation could be proved by either physical contact with a dog or by verbal harassment and teasing.

  • Your Sub-Point heading might look like this:


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Sub-Point Headings Blocks

  • I. The court will likely find that Host can be classified as Oscar's owner within the meaning of the Animal Control Act because Host provided a measure of care that only owners or haborers usually do.

  • II. The court will likely find that Stumble did not provoke Oscar within the meaning of the Animal Control Act because the dog attack was disproportionate to Stumble’s conduct.

    • A. Stumble did not provoke Oscar by means of physical contact.

    • B. Stumble did not provoke Oscar by means of verbal harassment or teasing.


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Topic Sentences Blocks and Transitions

  • Use topic sentences to focus thereader’s attention on what will come next. (First, Next, etc.)

  • Topic sentences often appear asthe first sentence of a paragraphand introduce a factor or analyticalcategory to be applied where the discussion is not long enough for a sub-point heading


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Don’t Forget Blocks

  • Counter arguments to the application of a factor or analytical category go at the end of the respective application of that factor or category.


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The Outline of the Memo Blocks

  • Is due in class this Thursday, Sept. 2.

  • Should cover ONLY the legal discussion or analysis sectionof the memo

  • Should resemble the sample outline.

  • Should include a cover page with your legal writing section and anonymous number.


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The Outline of the Memo Blocks

  • Should be no more than two pages (double spaced and 12 point Courier New)

  • Should include any necessary road-maps.

  • Should include a place for

    • case discussions

    • applications

    • counter-analysis and a response.


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Structuring Your Legal Analysis: Organizational Building Blocks

  • CONCLUSION

    • Integrate law and fact in the prediction


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The Conclusion Section Blocks

  • Your memo should contain mini-conclusions at the end of the discussionof lengthy elements and aconclusion section at the end of each issue which addresses the question presented.

  • The reasoning of your conclusions should integrate the law with the facts of your client’s case as well as make predictions


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Example of a Conclusion: Blocks

  • The court will likely find that Host was an owner under the Animal Control Act. (prediction)

  • A person who harbors a dog can be classified as the dog’s owner within the meaning of the Animal Control Act. (law part)

  • Because Host undertook to care for Oscar by feeding him on a semi-permanent basis, as well as regularly brushing him, Host provided a sufficient level of care to be considered an owner under the statute.(fact/application part)