A legal memorandum, or legal memo, is often used by law students, paralegals, or attorneys to present an issue and discuss the conclusion that he or she has reached regarding the issue. Jurisdictions may vary with regard to precisely what is expected to be in a legal memo, as well as the order or format of the memo. In most cases, however, a legal memo will include the identifying information for the sender and recipient, the legal issue presented, and a statement of the facts, as well as a discussion of the applicable law and a conclusion.
As with all memos, a legal memo must include the basic information at the top of the memo. The name of the recipient, the name of the author, and the date of the memo are usually included at the top of the memo. In addition, a brief title or indication of what the purpose of the memo is will be found at the top.
The next section in a legal memo is usually devoted to explaining the legal issue presented. This is frequently stated in a question format. For example, in a criminal case, the legal issue may be, "whether or not the search of the defendant's house was illegal." In a civil case, the legal issue could be, "whether or not shop owner liability applies."
As a rule, the next section of a legal memo will be a statement of the facts relevant to the legal issue. This section does not debate or argue how the facts should be construed. Only objective information is included in this section, such as the date and time that a search warrant was obtained or how a property is legally titled.
The discussion of applicable law section of a legal memo is usually the longest section. In this section, the author will usually inform the reader what the current state of the law is as he or she believes it applies to the legal issue presented. Case law will be cited and discussed as it applies to the facts in the current case. In this section, the author may try to persuade the recipient or may simply stick to a discussion of the current law depending on who the recipient is and the precise purpose of the memo.
In the conclusion, the author will wrap up everything he or she has heretofore written. A brief restatement of the legal issue is usually followed by a one- or two-sentence explanation of the current law on the subject. The author should then finish with an answer to the original question asked or legal question presented.