Tips for Writing an Objective Memo on the MPT
One of the most common tasks to appear on the Multistate Professional Test (“MPT”) is the assignment to draft an objective memorandum. In this post, we provide some tips for writing an objective memo.
Tips for Writing an Objective Memo on the MPT
Unlike the MEE and MBE portions of the bar exam, the MPT portion does not expect examinees to bring any knowledge of substantive law to the table (nor should you!). Rather, all relevant, necessary substantive law required to answer the task is provided. The goal of the MPT is to test other fundamental lawyering skills such as an ability to reason, problem-solving, and time management. For these reasons, it is important to implement good writing skills when responding to an MPT task.
The following skills are crucial for writing an effective objective memorandum on the MPT.
Know your audience.
Always be sure to start by reading the Task Memo contained within the MPT. That way, you understand who is assigning the memo and who your audience is. Generally, the memo asks you to assume that you are a junior attorney at a firm. The memo is assigned by a senior attorney.
The senior attorney to who you are writing the memo has a fairly complex understanding of general legal principles. Therefore, your memo should contain legal words and phrases. You do not have to explain complex legal terms in a simplified language like you would for, say, a client. Incorporating and correctly using appropriate legal language shows that you are able to think and write like a lawyer!
On the other hand, senior attorneys are very busy and probably don’t have time to review the details of the case before assigning the memorandum to a junior attorney. You should not assume that the reader has any type of knowledge regarding the case law you are discussing or the facts regarding the matter. The senior attorney may not understand the more complex issues involved in the problem. So, make sure to explain any very specific or complicated legal issues. Be sure to fully explain all relevant facts and information within your memorandum.
Don’t assume that every issue will resolve in your client’s favor.
Although the senior attorney certainly wants every issue to resolve in the client’s favor, the point of the objective memo is to weigh the likelihood of success in a case or on a particular issue. You should always be sure to include a conclusion as to the likely result of each issue you discuss. However, do not assume or simply try to argue that each issue will resolve in your client’s favor.
This is where an objective memorandum most differs from a persuasive brief. It also can make the objective memorandum the harder of the two tasks! If you are writing a persuasive brief, you know how the issues are supposed to be resolved and your job is simply to make arguments that support that resolution. The objective memorandum requires you to decide how each and every issue should be resolved. Once you decide how an issue should be resolved, your writing should be persuasive, but only to the extent that you show the reader why your resolution of the issue is correct.
Be as thorough as possible.
The entire goal of the objective memo is to determine what the best arguments are and the likely outcome of the legal issues. It is hard to determine what the “best” arguments are if you don’t discuss all the arguments!
Often, the task memo specifically asks examinees to anticipate the opposing party’s arguments and the likelihood of success of those arguments. Many students fail to cover this important task and simply focus on their client’s arguments. Don’t forget to raise all of the opposing party’s arguments. In addition, don’t be afraid to conclude that the opposing party has an argument that will likely be successful!
Utilize case law.
As mentioned above, just because the assignment asks you to draft an objective memorandum does not mean that your product should be void of persuasion. It simply means that you have to decide which argument has the stronger position. A great way of weighing the likely success of an argument is to analogize or distinguish the facts to/from the cases in the Library. Once you determine which argument has the stronger position, you must persuade the reader that you are correct!
When analogizing or distinguishing case law, be sure to include enough facts about the case to give the reader a relevant background and allow him or her to understand the relevance and importance of your comparisons. As stated above, do not assume that the reader has any type of understanding of the case law or the facts of the cases.
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