Part 24 of the Legal Methods Lecture Series By Clare Coleman
Writing for Your Audience Readers absorb information best if they understand its significance as soon as they see it. One way to help them do this is to put focus before details. On the paragraph level, this means telling your audience the point of the paragraph before any details. → Topic Sentence.
The Role of Topic Sentences in Legal Memoranda A legal memorandum has a general purpose. E.g., Discuss possible tort claims your client may bring against her former fiancé, who snatched a ring off her finger. Each paragraph develops one aspect of that purpose. E.g., One element of the tort of battery is “intent to make contact.” Topic sentences do 2 things: 1. Make a statement about the topic. 2. Introduce the topic of the paragraph.
Topic Sentences That Make a Statement or Draw a Conclusion “Tuition reimbursement is reimbursement, not damages. Burlington, 471 U.S. at 370.” “Circumstantial evidence is sufficient to provide identity of an assailant in a civil battery action.” Fitzpatrick v. Natter, 599 Pa. 465, 961 A.2d 1229 (Pa. 2008) →Useful, especially, for the “C” or “T” part of CREAC/TRAAC.
Topic Sentences in a Multi-Paragraph Analysis “The second element our client must prove to make out a claim of battery is ‘intent to make contact.’” “In determining whether service is proper under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(1), courts have considered several other factors.” “A self-dealing transaction triggers an analysis under 8 Del. C. § 144.” “’Entire fairness’” has two components: fair dealing and fair price.”
How do I know if I’ve written good topic sentences? (P. 1) #1: Start from your outline. Each point you need to make is set forth there. Each of those points will need a topic sentence. EX: I. Elements of the Intentional Tort of Battery a.Intent to make contact; b. Harmful or offensive c.Bodily contact or contact with objects on plaintiff. II. My client’s claim meets all the elements.
How do I know if I’ve written good topic sentences? (P. 2) #2:Read through your memo just looking at the topic sentences. If the memo flows logically, your topic sentences are good!
Sources Stephen V. Armstrong & Timothy P. Terrell, Thinking Like a Writer: A Lawyer's Guide to Effective Writing & Editing (2d ed.) Anne Enquist and Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing: Grammar, Punctuation, and Style for the Legal Writer (2d ed.)