Lessons for Memorandum Drafting

​Alex and I are working on a Memorandum for Brent that synthesizes research which will be used to understand how various Land Banks in Ohio, Georgia and Michigan use nuisance abatement laws to acquire blighted properties. This research is necessary in order to analyze how to better interpret Illinois law, or propose new legislation to enact or modify current law, enabling Cook County and South Suburban Land Banks to implement the most effective strategy (in this case nuisance abatement) to acquire blighted properties. Alex and I are currently on draft four of our memorandum. The editing process has provided some valuable lessons.

When drafting a memorandum, an important concept to consider is perspective. When Alex and I started writing the memorandum, we wrote from our perspective as students who had done the research. This perspective lead Alex and I to making the assumption that the reader already had an understanding of the research we performed. As a result, certain Land Bank and nuisance abatement procedures were not holistically explained. Instead of writing from our perspective, Alex and I should have considered the memorandum from the perspective of Brent and what purpose the memorandum has for Brent. Drafting the memorandum from Brent’s perspective would help us organize between those details that needed to be comprehensively explained and other details that Alex and I could briefly go over.

Another lesson Alex and I learned related to organization of the memorandum. When we first began writing the memorandum, Alex and I organized the memorandum according to how we conducted our research. Initially, we organized the memorandum by first focusing on the general strategies land banks use to acquire blighted properties. Next we would write about Land Bank laws, nuisance abatement laws, and how Land Banks are able to use nuisance abatement to acquire blighted properties. This format, however, made the memorandum difficult to follow. By organizing our memorandum by the way we researched, the memorandum seemed scattered. So, pursuant to Professor Lawton’s suggestion, Alex and I reorganized the memorandum according to states. Reorganizing the memorandum according to states made the memorandum more cohesive than how Alex and I had organized the memorandum before.

The final major lesson Alex and I learned in writing the memorandum was about cohesion and flow.  As Alex and I have found out with each paragraph of each draft, it is always important to keep the purpose of the memorandum at the forefront.  If the purpose of the writing was not apparent in each paragraph, from sentence to sentence, how could we as drafters expect the readers to follow our explanations and ultimately get from the memorandum what we aimed to describe?  By editing the memorandum with our message in mind, a constant eye towards organization, and an understanding of perspectives, the document becomes clearer with each edit, getting Alex and I closer and closer to a cohesive memorandum for the client.