Drafting a Persuasive Closing Statement
Every trial lawyer dreams of drafting a persuasive closing statement. Convincing the jury or the court to rule in our favor is nearly always about the presentation of the evidence rather than the evidence itself. Even if on the face of evidence we have lost, the closing statement is important as it is essential for damage-limitation. This is where many lawyers stumble and sometimes ruin an otherwise good case.
Pay Attention to Everything
Before you even begin to craft your closing statement, it’s necessary to listen. This should naturally apply to the other side so that you may address their points in the closing statement. It should apply equally to the evidence you presented, especially the opening statement. Does the evidence fit the opening statement? Does the closing statement address and answer every point in the opening statement?
Highlight Key Information and Refer Back
You cannot cover everything in your closing statement, and you shouldn’t try. You should focus on the key points where you feel your case is strongest. Include the most compelling witness statements (or those where the opposition had no compelling rebuttal) and exhibits that you refer to in the case. In some cases, the judge may make on-record comments. Where possible, address these too.
Build Around 2-3 Main Points
Your highlighted information is not the end of the process. Now, select the main points that make your case stronger. There is only so much a jury, or a judge, can process. Bombarding them with information is a fast track to defeat. Of those strongest points, which are the most compelling? Then, fit the rest of the closing statement around them. Ensure you address your opening statement too.
Address Supporting Information
This is where some lawyers tend to fail. It is tempting to use the summary to go over old ground. Don’t be tempted; instead, refer to it. The jury and the judge will remember that information with the right prompt. Needlessly repeating yourself will not leave room for relevant information and you may miss out relevant data. Ideally, this should read like a list of bullet points.
Grab Them With the First Line
A novel needs a compelling opening paragraph and so does your closing statement. A good introduction will capture the attention of the judge or the jury and propel the rest of the statement. It should invoke some key evidence such as a witness statement or refer to an exhibit or other piece of evidence. It must be simple and invoke the desire to see things your way.
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