Thursday, April 14, 2005

Does anyone write memos?

Do young attorneys write memos anymore? I assume they do, and I teach my students how, but I wonder what's going on out there.

I hear reports from students that "They didn't want a memo; they just wanted the answer [oral report, list of cases]." Or worse, "They just wanted the answer in an email." I hear that government law offices don't do them much or that public interest organizations don't do them much. I hear that large law firms still do--but only in the summer.

What's the reality?

Legal writing teachers tend to view the traditional memo as a core tool in legal synthesis and analysis: the building block for problem solving, client advising, and brief writing. I think that's right. I also think that telling a young lawyer "Don't write a full memo; just give me the answer" is short-sighted.

It is in doing the synthesis and analysis that the you master the issues and the authorities. And that mastery will be much better, in my view, if the young lawyer is required to write out the synthesis and analysis in clear prose. There's nothing like writing a formal document to expose hasty, faulty thinking.

So I'm committed to teaching the traditional legal memo.

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