A guide on how to write legal opinion letter perfectly

This is the most complete guide on how to write a legal opinion letter online.

So if you want to learn how to write a legal opinion, then you’ll love the details in this guide.

A legal opinion is a common form of formal communication between lawyer and client and sometimes lawyer and lawyer. Legal opinion is delivered as a letter popularly known as ‘Legal opinion letter’.

This letter always contains factual analysis and application of the law basing on those facts/issues.

What is the legal opinion?

Legal opinion is the attorney’s expression of his professional findings concerning specific legal matters and issues on which his or her reasoned opinion was requested.

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Legal opinion is a response of an attorney on specific legal issues and it is always backed up with relevant legal authorities concerning legal issues at hand.

What is a legal opinion letter?

A Legal opinion letter is a formal written letter from the attorney to the client or colleague that contains the reasoned opinion on relevant legal issues as required by the instructor.

See: sample of a legal opinion letter

How to write a legal opinion

The legal opinion must be written through the following processes;

Receiving instructions from the client

This is the foundation of a Legal opinion letter.  Here you should interview a client so as you can determine

  • What does the client want?
  • Background of the case/issue
  • Relevant documents to support his claim

Instruction will raise questions and the answer must tell the client what he wants to know. Possible Questions that may be raised are

  • Is there a good case?
  • If so what remedies are available?
  • Damages/ compensation?
  • Is there a good defense to this action or case? If not how can the liabilities be minimized?

Preparing to write a legal opinion letter

Here you must read the instructions first and get a clear view of what you are asked to do. It is important to start an opinion with a brief summary of the facts of the situation you have been asked to deal with.

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This is a good style and should ensure that there is no misunderstanding of the basis of the opinion.

Organize the other documents in the brief before you start to read them to ensure that before you start to read them, ensure that you read the most important first.

Absorb and organize the facts

  1. Make a chronology of basic facts and dates.
  2. Make notes of people involved, items involved, etc
  3. Make notes dealing with any figures provided.
  4. Identify and note gaps in the information provided.
  5. Note areas where evidence exists and where evidence is required

Answer the primary questions

What does my client want to know?

You have to have a clear idea of what your client wants to know.

Your client is interested in the facts as it affects her. e.g., Will, I have to pay damages to the plaintiff? If so how much?  Am I going to be convicted? If so how long will be the sentence or is there a possibility of a fine in a sentence or is there a possibility of a fine in an alternative?

Construct a legal framework

Note precisely what the instructions ask you to do.

List possible causes of action.

Analyze the potential strengths and weaknesses of each possible cause of action.

Note other legal issues, for example, potential defenses.

Note relevant procedural points.

Note areas that may require Legal research.

An example of a legal framework: In a personal injury case based on negligence;

  • Did AAA owe my client a duty of care?
  • Was AAA in breach of duty?
  • What are my client’s injuries?
  • Were those injuries caused by AAA negligence?
  • Were they reasonably foreseeable?
  • Damages?

Decide on an appropriate course of action

Is the issue that you’re dealing with urgent or not? Act immediately if there is any sense of urgency.

Make decisions on the work required before an opinion is written

If an opinion cannot be written without further work, decide whether a conference will be required, or substantial Legal research.

If the brief is beyond your experience or outside your normal areas of practice consider whether it should be returned.

Carry out any necessary work prior to writing an opinion

List all work that will need to be done before the opinion is written.

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When necessary get any extra factual information required from the solicitor.

Carry out any necessary Legal research, making clear notes of the outcome for future reference.

Make outline notes for your legal opinion letter

Here you should;

  • Ensure that work under all the above categories has been properly completed.
  • Decide what your conclusions will be so that the opinion can be clear and consistent.
  • Note all the elements that will need to be covered by the opinion and decide on a suitable structure.
  • Make full notes for the opinion to include all factual and legal elements.

To avoid unnecessary writing mistakes when drafting a legal opinion, you may use writing assistant tools. You can check here to see how this tool helps me to improve my legal drafting by over 110% within 11 weeks. and why you may need it too.

Contents of legal opinion

A legal opinion must contain the Title/heading which shows the subject matter of the opinion, introduction, a summary of facts, legal issues involved, the law applicable, and the specific opinion or advice.

To understand how to arrange all the contents properly, see this sample of the legal opinion letter.

Principles for writing a legal opinion letter

For your legal opinion letter to appear formal and  professional you must observe the following principles;

The context must be clear

The opinion must clearly reflect who it is written to, the solicitor, and the client.

The opinion should clearly appreciate in the case that has been reached.

The opinion should clearly reflect which side it is written for.

The opinion must be clear

The purpose for which the legal opinion letter is written must be clear.

The client’s objectives must be clearly reflected in the opinion.

The legal opinion letter must reflect proper preparation

The opinion must be based on a thorough and accurate analysis of the facts.

The opinion must be based on comprehensive Legal research.

The legal opinion letter must have a clear structure

Each individual area of advice should be dealt with separately.

Areas of advice should be dealt with in an appropriate order.

Appropriate subheadings and numbered paragraphs should be used wherever they will make an opinion easier to read.

The legal opinion letter must use appropriate terminology

An opinion should be written in good grammar.

An opinion should be written in clear and precise terms.

An opinion should include accurate legal terminology where necessary.

An opinion should deal appropriately with medical or other expert terminology.

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A legal opinion letter should include appropriate legal content

Important relevant statutory sections should be referred

Cases should be referred with a full reference.

(a) Clear authority for a particular legal proposition.

(b) Particularly relevant to the facts.

(c) A  particularly recent decision on a point.

A statute or case should be quoted only when It has direct relevance.

Practitioner books should be referred to if appropriate for the solicitor to look up a particular point.

Legal propositions must be dealt with clearly and accurately.

An opinion should focus on the position of the client

An opinion should show an appropriate understanding of the client’s problem.

An opinion should present arguments that will promote the client’s objectives as far as possible.

An opinion should clearly present any options open to the client.

An opinion should present the client’s case reasonably, not with false optimism.

An opinion should reflect a professional approach

An opinion should be objective.

An opinion should show a thorough professional understanding of how the case will proceed.

An opinion should reach clear conclusions, even if the conclusion is that there are options or doubts.

An opinion must be realistic, not academic.

An opinion must observe any appropriate ethical principles.

A particularly recent decision on a point

A statute or case should be quoted only when it has direct relevance.

Practitioner books should be referred to if appropriate for the client to look up a particular point.

Legal propositions must be dealt with clearly and accurately.

Final Remarks

In order to determine  you have written a good legal opinion letter you have to check;

  1. Is written in a correct grammatical English
  2. Is written in clear, plain language
  3. It covers everything that needs to be covered;
  4. It is fully reasoned;
  5. It gives a whole answer to every question;
  6. It gives full advice;
  7. It contains no irrelevancies;
  8. It deals with the heart of the matter
  9. It is no longer than reasonably necessary.
  10. Is properly headed, laid out, and signed
  11. It has a clear and appropriate structure and is neat on the page.
  12. Identifies and addresses the needs and objectives of the client.
  13. Shows a proper grasp of the facts
  14. Shows a sound understanding of the relevant law
  15. Identifies correctly all the material issues.
  16. And Gives advice that is; Clear, Identifiable, Appropriate, and Sound in every legal aspect example cause of action, liability, damages, legal steps to be taken,

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Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of sherianajamii.com. Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Mzumbe University and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law school of Tanzania. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion.

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