1. Develop Themes
Your preparation for closing argument should begin before trial as you are developing themes to guide the presentation of your case. No matter how complex the case, your themes should be simple and reducible to a word or short phrase. In a contract dispute, perhaps the case centered on the other side’s greed. In a construction case, maybe the theme is cutting corners. If you’re defending a legal malpractice case, your theme might be that the lawyer made a judgment call. This will help the jury create a framework as they hear the evidence and your closing argument.
2. Track the Evidence with an Eye Toward Closing
As the trial proceeds, keep a running list of points to use in your closing. You should also review all the evidence presented during the trial and be aware of any evidence that was excluded or admitted for only a limited purpose.
3. Analyze the Elements of Each Claim
The jury will hear about these elements during the judge’s instructions, so closing argument is your opportunity to connect the dots between the jury instructions, the evidence the jury heard during the trial, and the decisions they will need to make to reach a verdict.
4. Think about the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Case
Look at the facts of the case from both sides’ perspectives and consider how you can use the facts to your advantage. For example, if the evidence is weak on an element of one of your claims, is there an explanation you can provide the jury for why that evidence is lacking? If the other side produced an expert whose opinions conflict with your own expert’s, can you direct the jury to reasons that the other side’s expert is not credible? If you impeached the other side’s witness, think about how you can corral the inconsistencies in that witness’s testimony to show the jury why that witness should not be believed.
5. Create a Compelling Narrative
Your closing argument should tell a story and should be structured in an organized and logical way. One great way to structure the story is to tell the jury to focus on between three and five specific factual disputes to reach a verdict, and then explain to the jury why they should decide each of those factual disputes in your client’s favor.
6. End with a Strong Conclusion
Reinforce the main points of your case and remind the jury that they should reach a verdict in your client’s favor. Show the jury that you respect their time and efforts by ending with a short and simple “Thank you.”
7. Review your Draft Closing to Ensure You Will Not Inadvertently Create Potential Appellate Issues
Ensure that you refer only to evidence that has been admitted and that you are abiding by all evidentiary rulings the judge has made. Be cautious when addressing evidence that could be used improperly, such as evidence of a prior bad act of a witness.
The more practice runs you do with your closing, the better your delivery will be. Rehearse your closing in front of nonlawyers. They will be able to offer insights from the perspective of jurors and can help you rework any parts of the closing that might be confusing, redundant, or dull.
9. Make a Good Impression
If you will be using a podium, set it up before the jury arrives. When it’s time to begin, stand before the jury with confidence. Make eye contact. Speak loudly and clearly.
10. Deliver Your Closing with Confidence and Zeal
Speak slowly. Pause between points. Use repetition to provide emphasis. Finish with a reminder of the verdict you want the jury to reach using the same language they will see on the verdict slip.
By following these tips, you can prepare and deliver a winning closing argument at trial. A captivating closing argument delivered with charisma can help you achieve the best possible verdict for your client.