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Opening Statements: 5 Tips for Telling the Story

Opening Statements: 5 Tips for Telling the Story

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As an expert witness, I have observed the power of opening statements.

Your ability as a trial lawyer to craft an opening statement can make or break a case. If it is true that many jurors make up their mind about a case by the time the opening statements are over, you want to be sure you craft a powerful opening statement.

  1. Make your client real for the jury. The best attorneys are masterful at this aspect of the case preparation. They have spent time with their client, have been to their homes, talked to their friends, know their interests, and understand their background. They present their client to the jury in a way that allows the jury to understand  humanity.
  2. Follow a logical format for presenting the key points. Establish the key points early, and then return to them as you elaborate. It is easier for jurors to follow your structure if they know in advance what you plan to discuss. The adage that guides teaching also helps jurors hear the structure: tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.
  3. Once you have laid out the terms of your argument, your job focuses on linking and building the structure of your presentation. Consistently refer back to and develop the points you have told the jury you’ll be sharing with them.
  4. Help the jury hear the transitions as you move from point to point. Repetition guides the jury and enables them to follow your argument. Take a word or phrase from your first point and repeat it at the beginning of your second point. If the jury does not hear the transitions, they will get lost in your presentation. An example of a transition: “I’ve just told you about the road conditions on February 4, 2013. Now I will talk with you about how the road conditions were a factor in the motor vehicle crash.”
  5. Spend some time figuring out how you’ll summarize your opening statement. Recognize that the jurors may have tuned out during part of your presentation, despite your efforts to make it engaging and compelling. Our attention spans are shrinking, making it challenging to keep the jurors’ attention. “Short is the new long.” Wrap up by highlighting the key points you want them to remember. Return to those points in your closing argument.

By mastering these points, you will create compelling, memorable opening statements.

Med League provides medical expert witnesses to trial lawyers. Please call us at (908)788-8227 or contact us today to discuss your next case.

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