Category: Opening Argument
I can not exaggerate the power of the opening, the first minute, even the first sentence, of a speech. The speaker must capture the attention of the audience. If not they drift off into their own world and tune you out. How do you grab by the throat and make them listen?
As I wrote in my last post, recency, the last words the jury hears, carries persuasive power. John Guy made the most of it in his concluding sentences: “We are confident at the end of this trial you will know in your head, in your heart and your stomach that George Zimmerman did not shoot […]
My advice to trial lawyers – throw out the trial advocacy books filled with old wives’ tales, and study human behavior. The opening arguments in the Zimmerman trial are a good example of using the psychological principles of primacy and recency. The audience remembers the first thing you say and the last far better than that sandwiched in the middle. And the impression the jurors get from the opening colors their perception of the evidence as it unfolds.
The best examples for teaching trial advocacy come from actual trials. Concrete always trumps abstract for learning. The George Zimmerman trial opening statements provided a lot of grist for my mill.
I have written several times about the first minute of an opening, a final argument or a public speech. The sad fact is that people stop listening quickly if you don’t grab their attention immediately. They must see there is something in what you are saying for them. Either amusement, fact or important information. Without […]
I am enjoying the Conrad Murray case, not because of its substance, but because it provides concrete examples which give me loads of opportunities to comment on. One reason I teach my law school class through mock trials is that I need concrete examples in order to teach the dynamics of a trial, human behavior, and how the rules work with them. This trial provides plenty of concrete!
I switched between CourtTV (sorry, Tru TV) and HLN leading up to the start of court yesterday. They were interviewing right in the middle of the crazies waiting outside for the games to begin. I have been there before and the clients and lawyers have to battle through the scrum to get into the courthouse. It can be unnerving to everyone, let alone the defendant who is scared to death already. I hope Murray has good security because he is going to need it. Jackson collects a lot of fanatics.
It is a performance.
The opening argument is the first act of a drama.
For a long time, the opening argument was underrated and neglected by trial lawyers. It was at best an afterthought. We invested our thinking into the final argument. That was the apex of the trial. The last act. The denouement. When you would rise to the heights of Clarence Darrow and leave the jury in tears. Your client hoisting on his shoulders in a victory march out the courtroom doors.
Begin strong and add drama to your first paragraph to hook the jury into your words immediately. In this post are some examples of oral presentations with dramatic openings.
Do not waste the power of the opening moments. Get your audience involved immediately. Let them know you won’t waste their time. Their attention naturally high, they are spending the first couple of minutes sizing up you and your case.