Conclusion: Recap and Recommend
You have probably already delivered your overall conclusion right up front in your Introduction or in your Brief Answer. And each legal issue you discussed already ended with a conclusion.
So why write another conclusion?
A final conclusion takes advantage of the reader's tendency to pay the most attention to beginnings and endings.
Drop the final conclusion if you really don't need it and if firm memos don't routinely include it.
Otherwise use the final conclusion to add value as a summary recap and for strategic recommendations – as long as you avoid certain pitfalls.
A summary recap puts in one place everything you want to draw to the reader's attention.
Some lawyers want a final conclusion so they can just turn to the last page. The convenience of knowing exactly where to go to read the bottom line trumps any minor annoyance from repetition.
Some firms use the conclusion to categorize the memo for the firm's information retrieval system or memo bank. The conclusion has great value here.
A memo with many sub-issues or complicated discussions benefits from a summary tying the issues together. Your final conclusion can:
- expand or qualify your brief answer
- identify the issues most likely to be controversial
- reiterate assumptions you want the decision-maker to remember to take into account.
This is your chance to focus on results, to think strategically and creatively, and to offer the best solution to the client's problem.
- What are the options?
- What dispute resolution processes need to be discussed?
- What are the next steps?
- Are there practical questions that need to be answered?
- What loose ends need to be tied-up?
- Is there more information needed?
- Do facts need to be checked or evidence secured?
- Are there filing deadlines?
Here is where you demonstrate your judgment and your value as a member of the client's legal team.
Conclusion Pitfalls: The Must Not Do List
- Don't reiterate your legal analysis.
- Don't reiterate the cases or doctrine or policy rationales or contradictions you struggled with.
- Don't introduce "new" information – anything that does not appear in either your discussion or fact statement.
- Don't waffle. Don't hesitate. DON'T SAY:
- "It's all up to the court."
- "The court will have to decide..."
- "It depends on whether the jury believes..."
- "If the court can be persuaded that...
- "The court may agree…"
- "The case could go either way."
Use the conclusion to conclude.