Legal Memos: Templates, Tips, and Structures

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Legal memos typically take one of three forms. Each one has a unique purpose depending on who the recipient is. These include: 

  1. An in-house document.
  2. A letter to a client.
  3. A paper on legal policy. 

Legal memos are critical for communicating research-based facts or noting significant information for courts, clients, and policy analysis, among other purposes. Legal memos also happen to be incredibly versatile. They’re not just for lawyers—all legal professionals should know how to draft legal memos. 

Even though they can be casual, e.g., given from coworker to coworker, a legal memo is still a legal document and should be formal, professional, and formatted correctly. Follow our tips below for setting up a legal memo template.

And, when you’re done, be sure to make the most out of your template with Clio Draft. Learn more here.

How to write a memorandum of law

A legal memo template will provide a valuable format and structure, but you’ll still need to invest time into writing it. Depending on who you’re writing the legal memo for, the tone and language you use will change.

4 reminders when writing legal memos: 

  1. Plan and outline your memo. 
  2. Avoid legal jargon when writing for clients. This may confuse them, impact their understanding, or simply isolate them. 
  3. Be formal and professional in your language, but write plainly. There’s no need to use big words when a more conversational one will do. 
  4. Always proofread! In fact, if it’s possible, have another colleague read and review your memo.  

What should be included in a legal memo?

In most basic terms, a legal memo should include the date, who the memo is addressed to and who it’s from, and the basis for the memo.

The below format is a relatively simple and versatile legal memo template. However, note that depending on your practice area, you might choose to include specific details or fields in your firm’s template. 

To: Harvey Specter 

From: Mike Ross

RE: Defamation Case – Elizabeth W. 

Date: Feb 14, 2022

Question: Were the statements made during a live television interview defamatory against the client, Elizabeth W.?

Brief answer: Probably yes.

There are two common sentences for the brief answer section of the legal memo: Probably yes, or probably no. 

Statement of facts to support the answer: Yes, the interviewees provided false statements which were positioned as facts.  

The goal of a statement of facts is to present factual information in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way.

Discussion: Examples of defamation can be noted at timestamps x, y, and z of interview when… 

The discussion is the most thorough portion. This is where you expand on your brief answer to support your conclusion.

Conclusion: Here are all relevant and related rulings of the law which support logical recommendations. 

Your conclusion should be more comprehensive than the brief answer but will be significantly shorter than the discussion section.

Legal memo template

To help you out, we have put together an internal memo template, below. You can download it and you can use as a starting point.

Just remember—a legal memo template is just an ideal starting point. Use it as a guide, but be sure to make it your own.

Downloadable internal memo template created in Clio Draft

More legal memo examples and template examples 

Below are some links to examples of legal memos and legal memo templates. 

If you’re looking for more legal templates, be sure to take a look at our legal templates hub.

Final thoughts on legal memos

Legal memos are incredibly versatile and useful. Depending on your firm size and area of practice, they might serve as a communication pillar when interacting with colleagues, clients, partners, and judges, among others. Having a reliable legal memo template will ensure you always have a clean and readable structure to start with. At the same time, you can reduce your overall writing time.

However, as we explained above, a legal memo template is just an ideal starting point. Polishing your writing skills is critical, given the various audiences reading your legal memos. By improving your legal writing abilities, you can write faster and more easily. 

The best way to get better at writing is to practice writing. So, use the templates above and start practicing. Sharing your templates with a colleague or friend who’s also a legal professional is another way to hone your skills. 

And again, when you’re done, don’t forget to make the most out of your template.

Written by: Madison Arrotta
Last updated: February 26, 2024

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