5 Simple Steps to Prepare an Effective Opening Statement

January 6, 2023

Case Life Cycle
January 6, 2023

5 Simple Steps to Prepare an Effective Opening Statement

Opening statements are crucial to the success of a legal case. The better the statement, the more likely you are to capture the attention of the jury.

Here are 5 simple steps to preparing an effective opening statement:

What is an Opening Statement?

An opening statement in a legal case is the introduction to the case itself. Both parties speak their opening statements and explain what evidence will be provided at the trial.

The opening statement is a factual statement, not unlike a closing statement which is more argumentative. It allows insight for the jury to prepare for the evidence that will be introduced throughout the case.  

How to Build a Strong Opening Statement in 5 Steps

These top tips will help you build a strong opening statement that creates a lasting impression on the jury.

1. Select a theme

Emotionally based themes are ultimately most effective in opening statements. They quickly evoke a response in the courtroom when it comes time for the verdict.

A theme matched with a persuasive story provides a strong foundation on which to build the evidence. Engage your audience with the theme and keep it interesting. A bored jury is an inattentive jury!

2. Tell the story

The next step is to tell the story based on the decided theme of the case. Engage the jury with an interesting, thought-provoking story that showcases your side of your client’s story. Your side should be shown in the best possible light to plant the seed for the evidence to come.

Connecting with the jury allows them to see your point of view on the facts of the case. Bold-faced statements, such as “My client was not at that location at the time of the incident” cements the impression in the minds of the jury. These statements make it easy to prove your stance with evidence in the next round of the trial.

3. Be persuasive with the facts

The next step is to organize the facts for the jury and to be persuasive in their delivery. Set the tone and scene of the incident. Navigate with and for the jury on each step of the situation so the jury can imagine themselves there.

The more factual evidence you provide whilst guiding them through each step and emotion of the incident will persuade them to consider your side as truth. Communicate the connection—or lack therefore—between the series of events and the stance of your client’s involvement.

4. Offer negative facts first

Before the opposing counsel has a chance to deliver the “bad facts” of your case, offer them first. This takes the sting out of the fact that can be detrimental to your case.

You will appear more trustworthy and credible in your stance if you show honesty—even if the facts are in a negative light. Opposing counsel will have a lesser footing against your client if you offer their evidence against your client first.

5. Connect with the jury

The most important concept of the opening statement is for the jury to trust you. Immediately connect with the jury by making eye contact and speaking directly to them. DO NOT READ your opening statement.

Rehearse the opening statement until you feel your delivery is its most organic. Juries will be looking for simple signs of elaborations and mistruths so keep it clean, factual, and emotionally charged.

What NOT To Do

The most common opening statement method that fails is to attempt to disprove the other side’s story. The opening statement is meant to show the jury they can trust you—that’s it.

Turning a “bad fact” into a good fact is the quickest way to destroy your case. Do not attempt to put a positive spin on a negative fact as the jury will immediately sense it and no longer trust you.  

Additionally, do not ignore your client. During your opening statement delivery, motion toward your client to bring the jury’s attention to them. Pay attention to your client at all times. Consequently, ignoring the jury instructions is another no-no as the verbiage they and the judge choose must be honored.

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