How to write an opening statement: Knowing your information



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How to write an opening statement: Knowing your information

One of the greatest things about lawyers all over the world is the fact that they know the necessary information by heart. Their minds scrolls continuously around the data inside and come up with an incredible argument that can easily win the hearts of the jury and prove the innocence of their clients. Many of these lawyers talks about the fact that an audience will always judge you right from the opening statement. They will put a label on you and they will get just the information they receive, through that filter.

Knowing your audience

One key element when it comes to learning how to write an opening statement relies on the fact that you know your audience. They are the ones that will be listening to your speech, so you should take various factors into consideration:

  • their social background
  • their language skills
  • their social context
  • their moral beliefs
  • their religious beliefs

Taking these factors into consideration, you will be preparing a statement that can easily get through to your audience and paint the exact picture you want in their minds. It’s not a form of manipulation, but a measurement of proficiency so that the communication process is fluent, with positive feedback.

So, how to write an opening statement?

Taking these aspects into consideration, you can start working on that opening statement. In this part of the trial, the attorney needs to present himself as strong, confident and very determined. The jury and the judge can easily pick up the mistakes and base their decisions on them. Remember, a client’s future depends on the way the attorney handles the case.

Don’t make the mistake of being cocky or arrogant. The jury is made up of people from different social context, be it an intellectual or a simple farmer, they will always figure it out if they are trying to be manipulated. Present the ideas in their own set of language and moral frames and you’ll reach out to your audience.

Minding your words

Considering their language skills is one thing, but using the right words is another. People react based on emotions and being capable to create the right emotions in your opening statement will surely land a positive feedback. Imagine you are creating a story about the social context in Bronx and how it influences the educational development of kids with no social privileges. The way you illustrate this picture can influence the voting decision of a jury for the conviction of an unemployed man who stole food in order to feed his family. Again, it’s not about manipulation, it’s about creating the context so that the audience will understand all the facts as they happened. They then will have enough information, discuss the case and come to a correct decision.

Telling a story

As illustrated above, the way you structure your information defines the way the jury and the judge perceive the information. Attorneys recommend that you should create a story that provides context, understanding and more importantly facts, to the entire audience. Remember that they don’t get to ask the questions, they will make a decision based on the exposure that you can make. So, the first thing to do in order to understand how to write an opening statement is to think about it as a story with a very strong introduction. Think about the stories that you have read and loved, how were there structured? What got your attention? How were the texts that made you bored and so on. Based on those answers, you can easily determine how the information is structured.

Talking from experience

Another awesome way to illustrate the facts and provide an understanding over the information is to talk from experience. People get through to people if they relate to their stories, if they have the feeling that they have lived the same experiences and events. By creating a context that they can relate to, you can easily make the perfect setting in order to patch that information through.

Bringing out the big guns

An opening statement needs to be powerful, bold, intelligent and forthcoming. People need to take you seriously and listen to what you have to say. This means that you need to highlight all the big pieces of the puzzle so that people will get the whole picture. A great piece of advice here it keeps some aces in your pockets just in case the opposite council has some up their sleeves as well. As much as you think that this is just a debate and the jury or the judge examines by facts and information, timing and strategy count just as well. It’s just like a chess game: you need to make an opening with your best plays, but you will always have some moves just waiting to be used in case if anything happens.

Establishing credibility

One of the other things that an attorney or a future student of law needs to pay attention to is the way they highlight their arguments. This means that he needs to establish credibility both for himself and his client so that the jury will take them seriously. Not only that, credibility is a key point in crucial scenarios because of the fact that it influences a jury’s decision. This means that if you create a powerful opening statement, if the case goes critical, people will remember their first impression and act on it.

Don’t ever, ever read the opening statement

Good attorneys learn the information by heart, incredible attorneys feel the text and express it lively. The ones that decide to read the opening statements from their notes and papers, have a slight chance to win. Think about it: how many speakers have you listened to that have read their speeches from their papers? Slight to none, right? So, why would the jury listen to an attorney that does the same? Speaking from the heart can easily create a connection with the public and will help the message go through.

Generalization is not the key

One of the mistakes that young attorneys make when they practice law for the first times is to use generalization in order to highlight their points. This is what they teach in schools and this is the way inexperienced councils practice law. Experienced ones have a way of personalizing the information in order to make it easier for the audience to relate to the story. This is an advanced method that will surely come with experience, but if you want to make it big in the court of law, you should always create a personalized story. Putting people in the shoes of the client will help them identify with his situation and understand how their decisions were made.

Concluding an opening statement

To conclude, an opening statement is your first impression in a court of law. The audience will listen to every word you have to say and that is the reason why you should open big, confident and with some solid information. One last piece of advice, people connect to emotions and that’s the reason why you shouldn’t act arrogant or too cocky. Be yourself and you will win them over.

Originally published Jul 02, 2017, updated Dec 29, 2020

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