Significance And Drafting Of Legal Opinions

Significance And Drafting Of Legal Opinions

Legal practice is not all about arguing before the judge and seeking relief for the clients. It is a multidimensional field and the nature of services that a lawyer can provide are not restricted to adjudication. A large proportion of a lawyer’s job is based on opinion work and drafting. Legal practitioners are frequently consulted for such opinion work and a carefully drafted opinion is necessary for the final appearance in court.

Being the expert, your opinion matters a lot both to you and to your client. This is because your opinion is the foundation of your client’s case. Once an opinion is given, you have to adhere to your words which is why your opinion should be deliberated and cautiously drafted.

As far as the structure of a legal opinion is concerned, it is recommended to start off with the facts that you as a lawyer have understood from the case elaborated by your client. In the next step, refer to the questions which your client has put before you and then, answer those questions in the light of relevant provisions of law applicable in the relevant jurisdiction. After that, you should conclude your draft putting succinctly your final approach/methodology towards the case. 

“A good legal opinion must consist of three essential elements namely facts, questions and reasoned answers.”[1]

You should always keep in mind that a wrong opinion or twisted approach towards the case can make you guilty in a court of law, for professional negligence.

“While drafting a legal opinion, one should always keep in mind that the matters being pointed out in opinion are relevant to the case under consideration. A counsel should always consider additional considerations and foresee the consequences but the opinion should not go irrelevant.”[2]

In the context of Pakistan, I will quote Mr. Muhammad Umer Qureshi, Advocate High Court, who has extensive experience in litigation and drafting not only for local clients but for international clients as well. Elucidating the technique of an apt legal opinion, Mr. Qureshi said that one should always listen to the client patiently and try to know every dimension of the case before putting any definite answer. He also highlighted that a good lawyer always keeps his or her client aware of both pros and cons of the case. Mr. Qureshi mentioned that lawyers in Pakistan become overzealous while giving their legal opinions and tend to hide the negative aspects of the case due to which both the counsel and the client can suffer at a later stage.

From his experience and keeping Pakistani practice in view, Mr. Qureshi advised to keep the client aware and to mention the clear procedure to be espoused within the probable time-frame of the proceedings rather than creating unrealistic expectations. Politeness in conversation is also an essential element which must be adopted when communicating with clients.

It is highly unfortunate that law schools in Pakistan do not focus on drafting as much as they should. Since law can be seen as a profession that involves continuous learning, it is impossible for one institute to impart complete knowledge of law. Therefore, one must always be inquisitive and research-oriented in order to meet certain standards and get the most out of the law.

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References:

[1] Drafting Legal Opinion, Bar Practice Course, The New South Wales Bar Association

[2] Anatomy of a Legal Opinion by Herrick K. Lidston Jr., Burns, Figa &Will)

 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which she might be associated.

Waiza Rafique

The writer is a practicing Lawyer and can be reached at waiza.azamrai@gmail.com



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