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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 a ‘Legal opinion letter’. This letter always contains factual analysis and application of the law based on those facts/issues.
You have found the most complete guide on legal opinion letters online.
So if you want to learn everything concerning legal opinion, then you’ll love the details in this guide.
In this post, I will share my personal experience and expertise in writing legal opinions which I have obtained since my LLB.
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Here I will take you through;
- What is the legal opinion
- What is a legal opinion letter
- How to write a legal opinion
- Contents of legal opinion letter
- Principles for writing a legal opinion letter
- Legal opinion letter writing checklist
- legal opinion letter sample
- legal opinion letter from an attorney
Let’s get started
Jump to section
- What is the legal opinion?
- How to write a legal opinion
- Contents of legal opinion
- Principles for writing a legal opinion letter
- The context must be clear
- The opinion must be clear
- The legal opinion letter must reflect proper preparation
- The legal opinion letter must have a clear structure
- The legal opinion letter must use appropriate terminology
- A legal opinion letter should include appropriate legal content
- An opinion should focus on the position of the client
- An opinion should reflect a professional approach
- Legal opinion letter writing checklist
- Legal opinion letter sample
- Legal opinion letter from an attorney
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.
Legal opinion is a response of an attorney on specific legal issues and it is always backed up by relevant legal authorities concerning legal issues at hand.
The main goals of a legal opinion are to inform the addressee of the legal implications of a transaction or case and to highlight potential legal pitfalls for additional consideration and assessment.
For instance, in a cross-border transaction, a legal opinion on whether a transaction document is legitimate and enforceable in that jurisdiction and complies with the local law may be acquired from attorneys in a foreign jurisdiction.
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 that 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 for 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.
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
- Make a chronology of basic facts and dates.
- Make notes of people involved, items involved, etc
- Make notes dealing with any figures provided.
- Identify and note gaps in the information provided.
- 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?
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.
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.
Contents of legal opinion
A legal opinion must contain;
- The title/heading shows the subject matter of the opinion
- a summary of facts
- legal issues involved
- the law applicable
- Analysis of the facts and law
- The specific opinion or advice.
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 reflect who it is written to, the solicitor, and the client.
The opinion should clearly appreciated in the case that has been reached.
The opinion should 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 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 with 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.
A legal opinion letter should include appropriate legal content
Important relevant statutory sections should be referred
Cases should be referred to with 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.
Legal opinion letter writing checklist
In order to determine whether you have written a good legal opinion letter you have to check;
- Is written in a correct grammatical English
- Is written in clear, plain language
- It covers everything that needs to be covered;
- It is fully reasoned;
- It gives a whole answer to every question;
- It gives full advice;
- It contains no irrelevancies;
- It deals with the heart of the matter
- It is no longer than reasonably necessary.
- Is properly headed, laid out, and signed
- It has a clear and appropriate structure and is neat on the page.
- Identifies and addresses the needs and objectives of the client.
- Shows a proper grasp of the facts
- Shows a sound understanding of the relevant law
- Identifies correctly all the material issues.
- 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,
Legal opinion letter sample
222 West Street
WESTOWN NSW 2222
Dear Mr. Brown
RE: LEGAL OPINION CHALLENGING THE MINISTER OF…………….. DECISION ON THE MATTER OF…………………………….. AND………………….
We, the undersigned EDB and KDD Advocates are rendering this Legal Opinion in compliance with your letter of instructions dated………………………, bearing Reference No…………….., in which you duly informed us that the Ministry has verbally notified you of ………..that you are required to obtain ………. ……….s for ………………………………..services.
Secondly, you wish to be notified of the existence of legislation if any, on the issue of ……………………………………….
2.0 LEGAL ISSUES: (Framed from the letter of instructions)
- whether the Minister has a mandate of …………………………………, under the …………………………Act.
- Whether Minister’s…………………………is time-barred and therefore illegal
3.0 THE LAW
3.1 Issue No. 1 whether the Minister has a mandate of …………………………………, under the …………………………Act.
Functions and powers of the Minister are clearly provided for under Section xx of the ……….Act. Having studied the Section, there is no section that provides the Minister may ……………
The Section further explains that, after the matter had been referred to the Minister, the Minister shall, as soon as practicable “give the decision thereon”, this phrase shows that the Minister has wide powers in giving decisions but the Section does not directly state that the Minister may ………………….
The Section goes further to state that, in performing his functions, given under S. xx, the Minister may exercise the powers conferred on a Board, which are provided under Sections …. and……of the Act. The Board, in exercising its powers, may ………………………… the powers which the Minister also has, if the matter has been referred to the Minister for reference.
If the phrase “give decision thereon” should be taken to mean agree or disagree with the Board’s decision. There is room for us to take the matter before a Court to seek its direction on whether or not the Section provides this avenue that the Minister has taken.
3.2 Issue No. 2 Whether Minister’s…………………………is time-barred and therefore illegal
The matter referred by the Minister of ……………………is time bared, hence contravenes the provisions of S. xx and S……. of the ………………… Act, which provides that any matter referred to the ………………. or Minister shall be exercised within …………………….days.
Having examined the relevant legislation, we are of the opinion that. The law ( ……………………….Act) does not state that the Minister may …………………….., so the available solution is to seek to leave to apply for prerogative orders to quash the decision of the Minister of ……………………….
5.0 CONCLUDING REMARKS
This opinion is limited to matters of the[name of state] Laws and Practices stated herein and may not be read as extending by implication to any matters not specifically referred to.
Nothing in this opinion should be taken as expressing an opinion in respect of any representations or warranties or other information, or any other document examined in connection with this opinion except as expressly confirmed herein.
This opinion is addressed to you solely for the benefit of ABC CO. alone and may not be relied upon, used by, or shown to any other person or for any other purpose.
We hereby opine and advise.
EDB and KDD Advocates
c.c. (to whom the letter of instructions was copied)
Legal opinion letter from an attorney
Good International Co. Limited
18 East Street
WESTOWN NSW 1111
Dear Managing Director
Re: LEGAL OPINION IN RESPECT OF EXEMPTION OF DUTIES ON TEMPORARY IMPORTATION OF EQUIPMENT
Reference is made to the interview and your email of [date] in which you have requested a legal opinion in respect of the exemption of duties on temporary importation of equipment by you for the exploration activities that are conducted by Better Co. Ltd who are enjoying importation exemption.
Better Co. Ltd [Better] is an Exploration Company duly registered and licensed to conduct its activities in Tanzania.
We are aware that Better intends to contract with your company to perform drilling activities in the Better Licensed area. We are also, aware that your company has equipment for this task located outside the jurisdiction of Tanzania.
We are also aware that Better does enjoy an import duty exemption which by law is not allowed to pass on to its contracting service company.
3.0 Laws Considered
For the purpose of this opinion we have considered the following statutes which we have considered relevant and they are:
- East African Community Customs Management Act No.1 of 2005
- East African Customs Management (Regulation of 2006)
- Value Added Tax Act No. 24 of 1997 as amended (VAT) and its subsequent regulations.
4.0 Assumption and Limitation
- For the purpose of this opinion, we have made the following assumption:-
- The information provided by you is accurate and correct;
- Your Company is not registered in Tanzania
- Your Company is not a resident in COMESA or SADC where a bilateral exists or other agreement between a particular state and neighboring country regarding any matter or field of activity.
- The PSA is in good order.
5.0 The Opinion
Having considered the information that you have provided together with all the relevant laws of Tanzania, we are of the following opinion:
Importation of equipment and goods by investors in the petroleum sector is governed by the East African Community Customs Management Act No.1 of 2005, East African Customs Management (Regulation of 2006), and Valued Added Tax No. 24 of 1997 as amended.
5.1 On the understanding that the tools and equipment to be imported for the project will be capital in nature and therefore not subjected to Import duties. This will mean that it does not matter whether the equipment was imported by Better or your company. The exemption applies across the board as long as this equipment is considered capital as provided by the Customs Tariff book. However, Your Company will need to be locally registered and apply for TIN and VAT certificates before they can import.
5.2 Exploration companies are normally relieved from paying VAT on imports as provided by item 8 of the third schedule of the VAT Act 1997. So there won’t be any VAT applicable on the said imports. However, from this particular perspective, the TRA would request to see an exploration license which I believe BETTER would have but not your company. In addition to this, VAT is not a cost as it is just a transactional tax. So in any event your company will have to pay VAT on the Imports (since they don’t possess exploration licenses) however they will be able to claim back the VAT paid as a refund provided they will be registered with VAT and have VAT Registration Certificate.
5.3 In case goods imported are for short-term use, temporary importation may be considered as provided by the East African Customs Management Act (EACMA). However, this can only be for a 1 year period and is not renewable. This is provided under Section 117(i) of EACMA. That, when goods are imported for temporary use or purpose shall be exempted from liability to import duties. The exemption shall be granted only after application to the proper office under Form C17 as per Section 132(g) of the Regulation of EACMA. The importation also has to be done only after being granted permission by the proper officer has to satisfy himself that goods are true of temporary use and such permission can be granted only after the Importing Company has given security for the amount of the import duty to which the goods would otherwise be liable. It is in the Commissioner’s discretion to dispense with the requirement of a deposit.
5.4 Better may have an offshore arrangement where Your Company and Better enter into a hire/purchase agreement with an allowance for Better to export to Tanzania equipment in its own name for the PSA to apply. In this case contract for equipment and service will be different.
5.1 This opinion has been given for the benefit and use of Better and shall not be used in any way whatsoever by any other person apart from the intended addressee without the prior written consent of the author.
5.2 This opinion is given based on the information which has been disclosed to us.
Alison David, Advocate