How to Format a Legal Memorandum on the Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
Getting ready for the bar exam? BarWrite can help you score high on a legal memorandum on the MPT. Here are some tips for doing well on the MPT legal memorandum.
The Multistate Performance Test (“MPT”) allows bar candidates an extremely short time in which to research and write a legal memorandum, only 90 minutes.
As part of our BarWrite® bar exam courses and tutoring programs, I explain step-by step how to use the MPT memo format and how to write powerful topic headings. Even if you can’t take a class, you can learn how to do the whole MPT, including legal memos, from my book Perform Your Best on the Bar Exam Performance Test (MPT).
I do not deal here with the other aspects of your work on a legal memorandum on which you will be graded on the MPT. These include writing persuasively, arguing from supportive law, distinguishing or attacking unfavorable law, and using the facts skillfully.
A. To score high on a legal memorandum on the MPT, use the memo format the MPT asks for.
Using correct format is one key to a high score on the MPT. According to earlier MPT point sheets, the graders award points for all of the following, including “careful use of the memo format”:
(a) powerful topic headings,
(b) persuasive writing,
(c) argument from supportive law,
(d) distinction of–or attack against–unfavorable law,
(e) skillful use of the facts, and
(f) careful use of the memo format.
In your Legal Writing course, you probably learned a format for the legal memorandum something like this:
(C.) Brief Answer(s);
(D.) Statement of Facts;
(E.) Discussion; and
The MPT, by contrast, usually expects the bar candidate to follow the following radically simplified format:
The format on the MPT is so abbreviated that whether or not you are using the correct format will be obvious. While the graders’ point sheets no longer single out format, format remains key to presenting a professional-looking work product. It can only help you. The MPT memo format is short, short, short. It usually has no Statement of Facts, no section for Issues, no section for Brief Answers. It contains just a Heading and Introduction, a Discussion, and a Conclusion.
In the following sections I treat the Discussion section of your memorandum first, and then I return to the Heading, Introduction, and Conclusion.
B. To structure the Discussion, the central segment of the memorandum, follow the directions in the supervising attorney memorandum.
The directions in the supervising attorney memorandum will not only tell you what the MPT task is, they will also help you structure your work product. If the supervising attorney memo tells you to do two things in your memorandum, it means your Discussion must have two main parts.
In the MPT case called In re Steven Wallace, for example, the supervising attorney memo asks the bar candidate to write an office memorandum that accomplishes two tasks. Accordingly, the Discussion section of the bar candidate’s memo must have two main parts.
In In re Steven Wallace, the first task is to explain the legal and factual bases for the trustee in bankruptcy’s position that the client’s painting is part of a gallery owner’s estate in bankruptcy. That will be the first section of the Discussion. The second task is to examine in turn each of the statutory exceptions to the state bankruptcy law, seeking to put together a factual argument that the client’s painting is not part of the estate in bankruptcy. That will be the second section of the Discussion.
C. Use powerful topic headings to reveal the organization of the Discussion section of your legal memorandum.
You and the grader have a common interest in your MPT work product’s being easy to read. Your topic headings must be strong and positive. They must be full sentences that guide the reader through the argument of the memorandum. They must be signposts to your argument for the grader. They must also make your organization clear.
Here is how to do it. Leave space at the top of each page on which you begin a section of the Discussion. After you write each section of your Discussion, go back to the top of that section and write a powerful topic heading. Underline the topic heading. For example:
Applying FCC sec. 2-326(3), Charles Client’s strongest argument in support of arbitration is that the contract he entered into with Bee Brokerage required “alternative dispute resolution.”
Always use strong, complete, declarative sentences, “powerful headings,” to head the sections of your Discussion.
D. Leave the first page and the last page of your bluebook blank, complete the Discussion section, then go back and fill in the Heading and the Introduction on the first page of the bluebook, and finally add the Conclusion at the end.
Leave the first page of the bluebook blank, and write the Discussion section of your memorandum first. Then go back to the first page and write the Heading and the Introduction. The last thing you will write in your blue book is the Conclusion, at the end.
Here is how to do the Heading for your memorandum. Almost at the top of the first page you will print the word Memorandum in all capital letters, centered, and underlined, like this:
Flush with the left-hand margin you will indicate the recipient’s name, the writer’s name, the subject, and the date, like this:
To: Pat Partner
Re: Charles Client – Arbitration of Securities Claims
Date: December 15, 2008
Only after you have finished the Discussion, that is, will you go back and write your Heading and your Introduction. The Introduction to your memorandum will state what the supervising attorney memo asked you to do, and it will say that you have done it in the memorandum.
Finally, when the Heading, the Introduction, and the Discussion are finished, you will add the Conclusion at the end of your memorandum. The Conclusion will state, again, what the supervising attorney memo asked you to do and report, again, that you have done it. It will restate your conclusion and argument in one or two sentences.
In this memorandum, I have explained step-by-step how to use the correct format for an office memorandum on the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and I have told you how to write powerful topic headings.
The MPT usually asks the candidate to use the following simplified memo format:
If you use the correct format, write powerful headings, manage your time and also, of course, pay proper attention to the other aspects of the memorandum on which you will be graded, you can get a higher score on a legal memorandum on the MPT.
Need Help Passing the Bar Exam?
We hope you found our instructions on how to format a legal memorandum on the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) helpful. Before every bar exam, I teach a class on how to do the MPT. Every enrolled student receives a copy of my book Perform Your Best on the Bar Exam Performance Test (MPT). If you are looking into classes or getting one-on-one assistance preparing for the bar exam, please visit us at BarWrite.com.