The memo: objective analysis
Predictive, objective analysis
The traditional memo is usually objective. That is, it does not advocate a position. Rather, it explains the law in a neutral way and applies that law to a problem to predict the likely result for the problem. Thus, the legal memo contrasts with the legal brief (not to be confused with the case brief):
- The brief takes a position and then marshals authority and arguments for that position in order to persuade a decision-maker.
The memo answers a question and then explains and applies authority in order to inform a decision-maker.
- What are the elements of an age-discrimination cause of action?
- Does Ohio law allow a self-proving affidavit for the witnesses to a will?
- What are the current regulations covering maximum interest rates in Texas?
- give just an answer to the question and forgo the written analysis
- give just the analysis and forgo the other parts of a traditional memo
- discuss the possible arguments for or against a certain position
Just a note: when I was told, as I often was, to "just give me an answer" or "just give me the analysis," I found that I did a much better job if I actually produced something close to a traditional memo for myself. You'll find that the process of writing up the entire memo is an excellent way to deepen your understanding of the material and find gaps in your reasoning. Besides, that memo can always go into the file or the database for later use by you or someone else. And about half the time I was later asked to "put what you told me in writing." So I had a head start on that.