Opening Statements are the first impressions to introducing yourself and your case-in-chief to the jury. In addition, eye-contact, presence, and confidence are all necessary for a successful Opening Statement. In other words, the opening statement is a story and your job is to tell that story and guide the jury through your story.
You are highlighting evidence and testimony that you are certain will be admitted during your case-in-chief. Above all, the opening statement should always be centered around your theme and case theory. The jury needs an effective and plausible explanation as to what happened and an opening statement will do the job.
If you sit down and the jury appears to be left in suspense, wanting to hear more, then you have achieved the most — to make the jury feel as you feel and believe as you believe.
To assist in Opening Statements and Closing Arguments, make sure to develop a central theme and case theory. Your theme is usually a catchy one-liner or small paragraph that grabs the jury’s attention. In addition, keep the jury focused on the main points of your case throughout the course of your opening statement, case-in-chief, and closing argument. If delivered correctly, the jury will grasp and remember your theme and theory at the conclusion of your closing argument.
Once the trial is in session, the attorney who gives the opening statement demonstrates to the jury what kind of attorneys your team will be and the opener will set the tone for the entire trial. The delivery of an opening is the most important so you should:
- Command Attention
- Stay Memorable
- Be Likable
As an opener, you need to present your team as people the jury can trust (and like). Simply, the jury needs to feel as you feel and believe as you believe. In addition, you cannot break their trust. Therefore, you should never make promises in an opening that you cannot keep, never talk about what the other side may argue, and only talk about testimony or exhibits that you are certain will be admitted. When in doubt, save everything that you want to add for your closing attorney to highlight in their closing argument.
- First Paragraph: Start Strong
- The first minute of an opening is the most important part of a trial. Most importantly, first impressions are everything. Always remember, Primacy & Recency.
- Assert your theme and theory. Simply, begin with an anecdote, a story, or an appeal to emotions.
- Second Paragraph: Burden of Proof & Important Legal Concepts
- Third, Fourth, and Fifth Paragraphs: Walk Through The Facts
- Organize your case topically as this is the most persuasive organization style. In other words, this means you should avoid chronological, witness-by-witness accounts.
- Use the rule of three and remember Primacy, Recency, and Frequency. In other words, each of the three paragraphs should highlight an important fact that will advance your side’s case. In addition, you will tell the jury the story of what happened through these paragraphs. Similarly, people remember what happens first, what happens last, and what happens often.
- Sixth Paragraph: End Strong
- End by leading the jury back to the theme
- Sum up your case in one sentence
- Make a strong emotional connection with the jury