December 13, 2011 Articles

Getting the Best Results from Opening Statements

The opening statement is an opportunity to arouse jurors' interest, build rapport, and present the case in a manner that attracts sympathy and support

By David T. Lopez

Sometimes, when browsing television channels, one might come across an athletic event—football, baseball, basketball, boxing—between two totally unfamiliar contenders. If one decides to keep watching the contest, human nature is to follow it in the more interesting fashion, which involves choosing one of the contenders. As the contest proceeds, to some extent one is pleased by the preferred contender doing well and, conversely, disappointed when the opponent is prevailing. While this is only a generalization, it is inherent in every person to choose one side or the other. In a jury trial, an opening statement is perhaps the best opportunity for a lawyer to persuade a juror to choose his or her side.

Opening statements are one of the most important, yet often the most underrated and neglected, parts of a trial. While voir dire might provide an opportunity to make some introductory points about the case, an opening statement is the first time the attention of the jurors is truly focused on one's case. This gives the lawyer a chance to present a well-structured and persuasive statement of the case.

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