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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Writing a legal memo


Legal memorandums that are written as assignments can take three forms: an in-house document, a letter to a client, or a paper on legal policy. All memos provide advice or legal opinion but can have different audiences or intended recipients. They should be clear, concise and informative.

People working in an office cartoon In-house document: written for a colleague or superior; provides your assessment of the client's situation based on the facts of the case and current law
Person sitting at a desk cartoon Letter to a client: presents the client's situation, focussing on potential actions and outcomes, often making recommendations about a course of action
Woman speaking at a rostrum Legal policy: written for a political authority or organisation responsible for policy changepresents an argument in favour of the client's position

The memo summarises and analyses any relevant laws in relation to the facts of a particular situation. It is the culmination of your legal research. Your memo should be well organised to reflect your analysis and reasoning. There is no one correct way to present your memo. Different lecturers and firms can have their own preferences even though the memo will contain the same elements. At university, check the assignment brief and marking rubric to be clear about the task requirements. If you are not sure, ask your lecturer.

Writing process

Identify the purpose according to the task

Identify the matters and any sub-issues to be discussed

Undertake research using reliable authorative sources

Plan the document (content and structure)

Write using your plan and research
  Edit and review; is it logical and clear?

Visit the Library's law and justice subject guide to access major Australian legal resources and help on searching them.

Acknowledge sources accurately to avoid plagiarism. Information on referencing can be found on the Learning Lab. See EasyCite for guidance on using AGLC4 referencing.

Also, be aware of your reader as this influences the language you use to communicate your reasoning. The style should be formal and professional, and language and tone suitable for the recipient; for example, avoid technical terms and legal jargon when writing for a client.


Structuring the memo

The following is a suggested model structure. However, this should be adapted according to needs of the memo or the guidelines of your lecturer.



To: (Recipient's name; email address)

From: (Writer's name; email address)

Date: (Date of submission)

File: (File number/client;s name)

Re: (Title to precisely sum up the subject)


  • Brief background and context
  • Summary of legally relevant facts
  • Outline of key legal issues to be discussed

Legal issues

1. Legal issue A: (sub-heading)

2. Legal issue B: (sub-heading)

3. Legal issue C: (sub-heading)

4. Legal issue D: (sub-heading)


  • Short summary of issues leading to your conclusion; note any matters requiring further clarification; identify any doubts or qualifications based on reason
  • Statement of advice regarding application of the law to the client's situation.



Images used with permission from Undraw - open source illustrations