Whenever your business is involved in legal proceedings, whether it's a contentious contract dispute or non-contentious voluntary bankruptcy, you'll need to file a statement that gives your version of events. The judge will make a ruling based on those facts and the arguments of the opposing party. A legal statement is a declaration of the facts of a case, without specifically arguing for or against a position.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Legal statements are vehicles of fact, not opinions or legal argument, and are used to put forward your version of events in a legal case.
What Is a Legal Statement?
A legal statement is an objective statement of fact that will stand up to scrutiny in a court of law. As such, it must be specific, precise and absent of argument and exaggeration. There are many types of legal statements which are used for different legal purposes such as a motion to dismiss a frivolous court action, a witness statement or a character reference. What these statements have in common is that they are factual and to-the-point, so there is no room for misunderstanding. The idea is to accurately depict a situation in an easy-to-read and believable way that will convince the reader of your point of view.
What Is the Purpose of the Legal Statement?
Before writing your statement, you must understand what the statement is for. The rule here is to start at the end and work backwards. Having a clear idea of the results that you would like can help you to construct a much more effective statement that will support your case. Ask yourself, what is the specific activity for which this statement of purpose will be used? For example, are you writing a statement of case because you're suing a debtor? Are you writing a statement of how your assets should be distributed before meeting with creditors in a bankruptcy situation? Are you writing a character reference for an employee? Use the purpose of the statement to help you organize the relevant points you wish to make.
What Information Is Included in a Legal Statement?
All legal statements include a few key elements such as the date, which should appear at the top of the statement, and the subject of the statement. For example, you might write, "Regarding the contract dated July 20, 2015, between Acme Inc. and Omni Consumer Products." Be sure to identify the appropriate parties and explain their connection to the event you're describing. The judge should not have to work hard to figure out who did what and when. The end of the statement will contain your name, signature and job description if you are signing on behalf of a company.
How to Write the Body of the Legal Statement
For the body of the statement, think about who did what and to whom, when they did it and how they did it. Use these details to set the stage. Then, write down the pertinent facts in separately numbered paragraphs – usually, a legal statement is laid out in chronological order. Keep the paragraphs short and concise. Ideally, each paragraph should deal with a single idea which the other side can accept or deny. The idea is to give the reader a clear sense of what happened as a standalone story – the reader should not be left wondering, "how did that happen?" or, "I'm not sure what they mean by this."
Do's and Don'ts When Writing a Legal Statement
Amplify the facts that support your best case, not the opposing point of view. Remember, you are the agent of this narrative, and you're trying to persuade the judge to be on your side. That doesn't mean you should omit any negative facts, however. Mention everything that is relevant, just put it in context. Above all else, stick to the facts. Don't exaggerate, don't make recommendations and don't attempt to draw any biased conclusions. It's the judge's job to form an opinion, not yours. Any unnecessary editorializing may damage your credibility.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a business writer. Her articles have appeared on numerous business sites including Typefinder, Women in Business, Startwire and Indeed.com.