Thanks for the invitation to post an answer to your question, and
thanks for your kind words. As you suggested, I will adapt the crux
of my earlier comment as the core of my answer, and then you give you
a very good online source where you can find the same essential
information and more about Memorandums of Understanding.
The reason you couldn?t find a definition of Memorandum of
Understanding from an online legal reference source is that it is not
a legal term, as such, with a single meaning. Rather, such documents
come in all ?shapes and sizes? and are typically similar to other
preliminary ?understandings? or ?agreements? such as ?letters of
intent? or ?letter agreements.? All of them are binding and
enforceable only to the extent that they say so and normally contain
language that specifically deals with whether they are be intended to
be contractually binding in whole or in part. Whether they in fact
are binding then depends on whether they meet all the other
requirements of an enforceable contract (besides that expressed
In my research looking toward finding for you online sources for an
explanation of the term Memorandum of Understanding, I discovered that
the term seems to be in especially common usage in international trade
negotiations and in governmental negotiations in general.
Therefore, it is not surprising that I found by far the best summary
of the nature and use of these documents in the context of
international trade, at the website of a very prominent Australian law
firm with an Asia-centered practice. I think that it will be very
useful for you to review the whole document, which is very informative
and clearly written.
Here are some brief excerpts from it, followed by a link to its complete text:
?At the outset of a project, parties often record the basic terms
under which they agree to work together for the particular project.
This preliminary agreement is commonly referred to as a memorandum of
. . . .
?There are no "usual" terms of an MOU. However, the terms that are
commonly found in an MOU include [a list follows in the document] :
. . . .
?At the time of drawing up the MOU, it is important for the parties to
decide whether they wish to be bound by the terms of the MOU. This is
a decision which will change from project to project. However, it is
common practice for an MOU to be part binding and part non-binding.
?Whether an MOU is binding is a question of general contract law. A
contract will be binding if there is offer, acceptance, intention to
be legally bound and consideration. For an MOU, what is particularly
important is the intention of the parties at the time of signing the
Mallesons Stephen Jacque: Memorandum of Understanding
You have said that you aren?t seeking legal advice about a particular
Memorandum of Understanding, so I think that this document will give
all you are looking for in general explanatory material about the
concept of these documents. Needless to say, the interpretation of
particular ?understandings? generally depends on state law (I am
assuming that you are in the U.S.) as interpreted by a judge in a
court with jurisdiction over the matter.
I have a general knowledge of the use of documents like the one that
interests you. I used a variety of Google searches to find the online
reference cited above and to give me reasonable confidence that there
is no better online source. These two were among the most useful:
"memorandum of understanding" "legal effect"
"a memorandum of understanding is"
I am confident that is the information you are seeking, but if
anything is unclear or incomplete, please ask for clarification before
rating the answer.