• School of Law

  • LRW Client Letters

    Expectations and Information

    The best source of information about the client letter assignment is always your Legal Writing instructor and the detailed instructions for the assignment that you received in class. Your instructor may have special requirements or expectations in addition to any identified below. However, these are the general expectations for a client letter:

    Format

    Not surprisingly, the client letter should look like a letter. That means it should include your address or "letterhead" information, the date, an address for your client, a subject line ("Re: Your Motion to Dismiss", for example), a greeting before the body of the letter, and a signature at the end.

    Tone

    The client letter should be an objective evaluation of the client's fact situation and the strengths and weaknesses of the legal arguments you might make for them on appeal. You should remember that you are writing to a person who probably has no legal training. In addition, whenever you communicate with clients, you should take the opportunity to form or strengthen a connection with the client.

    Facts

    Your client will, of course, already know the facts that led them to court, but it is important to explain your understanding of the story and give the client an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings you may have in case these new facts change your analysis of the legal issues.  

    Legal Authority

    Your letter should explain the trial court's decision, and the laws which would apply to the client's case on appeal. Your instructor will provide specific authorities on which you should rely. You should use them to explain the general rules that apply to your client's issue and the strengths and weaknesses of their position. It is important to remember as you explain that your client will be somewhat unfamiliar with legal terminology.

    Your Role as the Lawyer

    In the letter, you should make clear to your client what options the trial court's decision leaves them with. You may offer an opinion as to which course of action would be wiser or easier, but you should make it clear to the client that the ultimate decision about whether or how to proceed belongs to him or her.

    Samples

    Your instructor may provide you with previous students' work as an example of how your letter should be structured. The Reserves desk in the library also has samples of past legal writing assignments that you may examine.

    Please contact Mary Trevor (mtrevor@gw.hamline.edu) for more information about this project.