How do you approach opening statements?

Mesa, AZ personal injury attorney Robert L. Greer talks about his methods for creating an effective and powerful opening statement and why an opening statement is vital to get right every time in court.

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Most people on the jury by the time opening statement comes around have been through an extensive questioning period, they’ve waited a long time, they’re kind of antsy. They didn’t particularly want to be there to begin with. They’re compelled to come in for jury duty and so by the time they’re selected, they want to get started. They want to know why they are there.

And so, the opening statement is a particularly important because the first words out of a lawyer’s mouth have to be memorable. You have to be able to encapsulate the primary issue that the jury has to decide and do it in a way that allows them to have a framework within which to view the evidence. Some of the social scientists tell us that after opening statement, jurors tend to filter the evidence that they hear. That is that if they find themselves leaning one way or the other, they will remember the evidence that supports the way they are leaning.

Because of that, I will spend hours to prepare for an opening statement of maybe 30 minutes duration with the first three or four sentences done and practiced and redone for a long time to make sure that it is just right. It has to provide sufficient detail to let the jury know what is to come. The detail, again, is all pointed toward evoking compassion, getting understanding of what happened and why, and help them look for evidence as it comes in that will reinforce what they just heard.

It turns out to be a road map of what is to come but much more than it, it’s an argument without making an argument. In other words, you lay the facts out so cleanly that they cannon be misunderstood or misconstrued and that will lead to the results your client needs.