How to Write an Intake Memo

Intake memos are important documents for attorneys.

Intake memos are used by law firms and clinics as an initial summary of a potential client's case. They are taught as part of legal writing courses in law schools and for paralegal training. The actual format for an intake memo is different for every law firm but they all contain the same basic information so the firm can decide whether or not to take the case.

Summarize the background of the client or clients. Information such as where they are employed, their line of work or significant history like criminal records. In a financial case, details such as their credit history are important. Medical history is important to injury cases, and so on.

Sum up the facts of the client's case. Make sure to include details of the situation. For example, if a client is suing over a car accident, be sure to consider details from police reports in the memo. You will often be interviewing the client as well and not only reviewing documents of the case. The details the client provides could have a great effect on whether the firm offers him representation.

Include the action the client wants to the firm to take on his behalf. This is very important since lawyers are required do what the client asks, even if it would hurt the case or be against the best interest of the client. A lawyer provides advice but cannot go against the will of the client (unless it would require an illegal act).

Submit or forward the memo to your superior or whoever will be making the final decision on whether or not to accept the case.

Respond to the client with the firm's decision. A lawyer will respond with an offer or terms regarding payment or other requirements the client must meet before they will take the case.

  • Remember, intake memos provide facts and information; they do not make judgments as to whether the case is worth pursuing. It is not your job to decide the case. The lawyer taking the case needs as much of an overview as possible to decide whether it is worth their while to accept since their pay may be partially contingent on a positive outcome for the client.
  • Whether you are a paralegal or beginning lawyer, your specific firm or clinic will provide you with guidelines for their exact formatting of intake memos as well as their letterhead. The relevant facts and other information will change according to the nature of the case because a criminal case will have different requirements from a civil lawsuit.
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Marty Simmons started writing professional reports for the environmental consulting industry in 2008. His online instructional articles specialize in science and education. Simmons has a Bachelor of Arts in geology from Kent State University.