How to Make a Good Opening Statement
Preparing the Opening Statement
- 1). Review the entire case file. Know dates and witness names, with proper pronunciation. Be knowledgeable about all expert testimony, including medical terminology.
- 2). Discuss the entire case with your client. You need to know exactly what she will say because your opening statement will include your client's account of what happened.
- 3). Prepare your visual aids. Many jurisdictions allow use of visual aids during opening statements, and using such visuals can capture the jury's attention and break up the monotony of listening to an attorney talk for 30 minutes.
- 4). Develop a memorable theme that will help the jury understand and remember your client's position. An innocent plaintiff may argue that he was "in the wrong place at the wrong time" or that the defendant's behavior represented "an accident waiting to happen."
- 5). Anticipate possible objections. Nothing derails an opening statement like objections from opposing counsel. Although it is not always possible to prevent this from happening, attorneys familiar with all applicable rules of evidence and procedure mitigate the risk of this occurring.
Giving the Opening Statement
- 1). Get right to the point. Attorneys need not indulge in theatrics. Just start strong with a vivid description of what happened. Show a picture if possible.
- 2). Talk about your strongest points at the beginning and at the end of your opening statement. Most trial experts understand the importance of primacy and recency. Jurors remember the first and last things an attorney says. The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys succinctly advises its prosecutors to "bury the bad in the middle."
- 3). Use visual aids. Many people are visual learners. At least a few of the jurors will likely fall into this category.
- 4). Use common sense. Do not make any argument that will baffle or alienate the jury. Use plain language; do not indulge in legalese.
- 5). Establish eye contact with every juror at least twice during the opening statement. This lets the jurors know you are confident with your case and with your abilities. It also establishes trust.