Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The memo: audience--secondary

Many lawyers forget it, but nearly all memos have a large, potential secondary audience. The secondary audience includes other junior attorneys who might need to read your memo to learn the basic facts or law before doing a related assignment. The secondary audience includes other senior attorneys who are working on the same matter and who need to get up to speed on the legal issues. It includes future attorneys who find your memo in the database and want to rely on it or use it as a starting place for their own research.

The secondary audience sometimes includes the client, who may or may not be a lawyer. I once worked on a large bankruptcy case in which every memo I wrote went to the general counsel of the client, and she was a former partner at my firm. And the secondary audience may also include the hiring or advancement committee at your office.

Many of the formal aspects of a traditional memo are there to aid the secondary audience: the question presented and the facts especially. But other parts aid the secondary reader, too. Yet my former students regularly report that a full, traditional memo is often not what the senior attorney wants. I think some senior attorneys discount the needs of the secondary audience or fail to see the potential benefits of the fully developed memo. But as with anything in this book, your boss's preferences control.

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