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Trial Style

jury_137375773The content of an opening statement and closing argument is largely determined by the law and evidence. But don’t underestimate how much your presentation style is integral to the persuasion process.

Nothing fancy is required for a persuasive opening statement or closing argument. In fact, you can achieve persuasion by using a plain or overall conversational approach. Just embellish it a bit with moments of elevation to hold the jury’s attention.

Here are four key aspects to a persuasive trial style:

  1. Clarity. The meaning of opening statements and closing arguments must be clear to the jury. Obscure or opaque language diminishes your chances of persuading them. One way to communicate clearly with the jury is to refer to commonly shared experiences.
  2. Elevated Language. A possible disadvantage in presenting a very clear and standard opening statement or closing argument is that it might come across as trite or mundane and bore the jury. Good trial lawyers, while valuing clarity and objectivity, elevate their delivery at certain points to keep that from happening.
  3. Credibility. An essential part of the persuasion process is establishing your credibility with the jury. You can increase credibility by using language that sounds simple. Try to reduce a complex topic to essential elements or, if that’s not possible, through description and explanation using common words. Other credibility aids include
    • references to and quotations from poets,
    • references to your children or personal memories, and
    • language that gives the impression of modesty.
  4. Emotional Effects Through Aesthetic Appeal. One important reason for the use of elevated language is to endow speech with a measure of pleasing rhythms and auditory effects that will affect the emotions of the jurors. When this aesthetic link has been forged, language can fix in the memories of the jurors key parts of the opening statement and closing argument.

Each of these aspects is explained and illustrated through specific examples in CEB’s Persuasive Opening Statements and Closing Arguments, chap 2, a must-have book for anyone heading into trial. For more practical pointers on crafting and delivering opening statements and closing arguments, check out CEB’s program Effective Approaches to Opening Statements & Closing Arguments, available On Demand.

Related CEB blog posts:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

2 Responses

  1. For more on opening statements, see my article “The 5 Do’s and 12,000 Don’ts of Opening Statements.” http://juryology.com/2013/05/17/the-five-dos-and-12000-donts-of-opening-statements/

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