Monday, September 18, 2006

The memo: what is it?

What is a memo?
The legal memo is a written document produced mostly by less-experienced lawyers for more-experienced ones. It is the written presentation of the work done on a legal problem or assignment. It can be many things, but most often it is either--
  1. a report of information acquired through legal research (a research report), or
  2. an analysis, based on legal research, that supports the answer to or prediction for a legal problem (predictive legal analysis).
Both these types of memos often contain recommendations or advice, and both may be highly formal and formulaic or highly informal, even to the point that the "memo" is not a written document at all, but an email message or an oral report. This book is concerned with type number 2: predictive legal analysis presented in a formal, written document. This type of document is sometimes referred to as a traditional memo.

A traditional memo can have many purposes, but its primary purpose is to inform a decision arising from a legal problem. It is thus a decision-making tool, and many of its traits arise from this function. Careful lawyers keep that function in mind and regularly ask themselves, If I were handling this legal problem and making this decision, what would help me? What would I want to know?

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