Writing reports for lawyers and courts

J Psychiatr Pract. 2011 Sep;17(5):355-9. doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000405366.74796.f1.


Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are asked from time to time to provide reports that will be used in legal or administrative actions ("forensic" reports, expressing "opinions" beyond personal observations). This article provides general guidance and recommendations for forensic report writing, particularly when the writer has limited forensic experience. Forensic reports are quite different from ordinary clinical reports. Their appearance, purpose, context, format, vocabulary, and legal or administrative "rules" should be carefully considered by professionals who choose to write them. Conflict of interest dictates that most such reports not be written about one's own patients. Requests from complainants or litigants themselves, rather than from lawyers, judges, or agency/company officials, should usually be declined. Although most attorneys and others who ask for reports do so in good faith, some requests, especially last-minute or "rush" demands and those from complainants or litigants themselves, can encourage misguided or even unethical behavior. Clinicians who write forensic reports should adhere to a careful routine of completeness, honesty, and objectivity. They should decline cases in which they sense inappropriate pressure or ethical problems, and treat every report as a lasting and public example of their work, expertise, and professionalism.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Forensic Psychiatry*
  • Humans
  • Research Report*
  • Writing*