5 Steps in Writing Legal Report

Often referred to as a Legal Memorandum, legal reports are created for the singular aim of explaining the legal and/or factual issues in a case. A legal report is ideally written by young lawyers to inform senior lawyers and judges of the facts surrounding a particular case.

However, the art of legal report writing has also been adopted in law schools as a means to prepare aspiring lawyers for the task ahead. Hence, mastering the art of producing a well written legal report is mandatory for both law students and lawyers. This article will walk you through the legal report writing process and provide important guidelines as well.

STRUCTURE OF A LEGAL REPORT

A legal report can either be written from an objective point of view or a persuasive point of view. Writing from an objective point of view requires the facts and possible outcomes of the legal issue to be delivered with a neutral tone. A persuasive point, however, requires the lawyer to write the report under the guise of one of the parties in the case.

The structure of a legal report is as follows:

  • Heading.
  • Question Presented.
  • Short/ Brief Answer.
  • Statement of facts.
  • Discussion Section.
  • Conclusion.

HEADING

This is the introductory part of a legal report. In this section, the writer identifies his/herself and other people involved in the writing and submission of the report. It includes:

  1. The name of the person who assigned the report.
  2. The name of the writer of the report.
  3. Date.
  4. The name of the client.
  5. A short description of the subject matter of the report.

QUESTION PRESENTED

The question presented section is the foundation of the legal memorandum. It sets out the legal issues which ought to be answered or analyzed in the report.

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When writing the questions presented, it is important to note that the issues in the case completely differs from the conflict in which both parties are involved in. It is also important to present an issue that is backed up with a legal provision because the question presented in the report will be linked to other sections in the report.

In order to compose a question presented, one must put into consideration the parties involved in the case, the cause of action and the facts relevant to the legal issue. The questions presented also begins with the words “whether”, “Is” or “Does” but “whether” is most commonly used.

For example: “Whether Titilayo Thomas has a claim against her lecturer, for assault because of the lecturer’s unauthorized and constant verbal and public harassment.”

It should be noted that the word “whether” is written to begin a statement and thus the sentence will end with a full stop and not a question mark.

SHORT/BRIEF ANSWER

A short/ brief answer directly answers the question that was asked in the previous section. As the name implies, the answer has to be as brief and concise as possible.

It must begin with a “Yes” or “No” followed by a brief reason for your answer. The short answer should have both the facts of the case and the law regarding that particular case incorporated in it. However, no citations should be included.

For example: Yes.

FACTS: The lecturer, Mr Lemon does not have any right to verbally and publicly harass his student, Miss Titilayo Thomas.

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LAW; A lecturer is a symbol of authority among both his/her colleagues and students alike. For the students, a lecturer ought to be regarded as a trustworthy and respected tutor only. Any breach, sidestep or infringement of the stated privilege is unlawful.

APPLICATION OF THE FACTS TO THE LAW; Yes, Miss Titilayo is likely to prevail in a claim of assault against her lecturer, Mr Lemon. A lecturer is a symbol of authority among both his/her colleagues and students alike. For the students, a lecturer ought to be regarded as a trustworthy and respected tutor only. Any breach, sidestep or infringement of the stated privilege is unlawful. Hence, the lecturer is liable.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

This section provides an outline of all the relevant facts in the case. It tells the reader why the current action in question is in court. The facts should be presented in an objective and logical manner. It must include the names of both parties, the dates in which key events occurred, important events which contain relevant legal applications and jurisdiction. The writer should state the facts alone, discussions on the law’s take on the issue will occur in the next section.

DISCUSSION SECTION

The discussion section is the bottom line of the legal report. The sole purpose of this section is to apply laws to the issues in the case and to produce possible solutions for these issues through the laws cited.

When writing the discussion section in a legal memo, the IRAC and IPAC mode can be used effectively to identify the issues and discuss the possible solutions. If the question presented section identified multiple issues, the writer should discuss all these issues separately, using subheadings to demarcate each issue. In order to draw a reasonable conclusion, the writer must compare the facts of similar cases with the current fact in the case and draw a conclusion based on what the court held at the end of past cases.

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CONCLUSION -5 Steps in Writing Legal Report

The conclusion section predicts the possible outcome in the case. Predicting the possible outcome of a case in a legal report is less complex since the legal outcomes in courts are concluded through the principle of “stare decisis”. This is simply the application of the judgement passed in similar old cases with the new similar ones.

This is why it is important to conduct proper legal research before and during the legal writing process. That way, after analyzing the issues and legal provisions, you can comfortably predict which party will prevail and the reason for such prediction.

Avoid citations and the introduction of new topics in the conclusion.

OVERALL GUIDELINES IN WRITING LEGAL REPORT

While embarking on a report writing spree, it is important to make use of the following guidelines:

  • Conduct proper legal research.
  • Be familiar with the language of law.
  • Make use of legal citations in the appropriate places.
  • Know when to be brief and when to write extensively.
  • Pick a particular point of view and stick to it.


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