CONSIDERATIONS WHEN WRITING INFORMAL
OPINION LETTERS TO CLIENTS
Include a summary of the facts upon which your opinion is based.
If you lack important facts, obtain them before writing the letter
or make clear that they might change your opinion.
Use of headings to organize your letter is not essential but can
often add to both the clarity and the professional appearance of
your letter. Many clients like to see the conclusion early in the
letter. If you use headings, make sure that there is enough text
under each heading to make it worthwhile.
Whether or not to include citations to authority is a judgment call.
Your decision may be based on the education and sophistication of
your client or on the nature of the legal issue. If you do cite authorities,
make as clear as possible what the citations stand for so that the
client can locate them if desired.
Be cautious about language that guarantees a result. An attorney
can promise to take certain actions on a client's behalf and may be
able to reasonably predict an outcome. However, he or she cannot guarantee
a particular result, especially when the matter involves a determination
by a third party (e.g. an administrative agency or court.)
The overall appearance and tone should be professional. The letter
may be more or less formal depending on the relationship with a particular
client, but an opinion should always have a professional tone.
Choose words carefully. It sounds better to say that an area of the
law is complex than to say it is "confusing."
Don't restate the obvious. The client should take for granted that
your research was careful or extensive.
Be tactful. Certain issues may be highly personal and sensitive to
Although you may analyze the issue(s) for your client, try not to
let your letter reflect your own thought process and problem-solving.
Theoretical discussions of the law may contribute to your grasp of
the issues and answers, but be cautious in how much of this you add
to your letter.
A letter that is going to a client must be free of typographical,
spelling, and grammatical errors.
It is important to communicate that the law on which your opinion
is based may change. Make sure, however, that your "disclaimer"
is tactful and fits the tone of the rest of your letter, rather than
sounding like language lifted from a form.