One of the many tasks required of a lawyer is the writing of opinion letters. These are not the same as op-ed pieces in the newspaper. Rather, they are documents that express his or her understanding of the law in relation to a client’s situation. Here is some advice on crafting one.
What to Write
An attorney opinion letter should be based on the current laws at the time of writing. Thus, the first step is to do your homework to ensure your advice is timely. Once written, your letter should contain the following elements:
- Summary of the facts.
- Statement of the law in question, its stipulations, and the court’s jurisdiction over it.
- Explanation of where your client stands with respect to the law.
- Specific advice on how to proceed, now and in the future.
- Yes or no answer to the client’s specific questions.
- List of supporting documents.
How to Protect Yourself
Whenever you put something in writing, you open yourself up not only to criticism but to potential legal repercussion. Even with an explicit disclaimer in the letter, there still exists a possibility of being held liable for advice that proves detrimental to a client. Attorney liability insurance helps mitigate this risk by covering legal costs and other potential damages.