CLOSING ARGUMENT: Practical Pointers For A Successful Result

What follows are excerpts from an article one of our lawyers wrote about Closing Arguments. We have previously posted Trial Techniques articles about effective cross-examination. As this article is broken ito separate parts, we will post the various subsections and suggestions in separate posts over the next several weeks. We hope this will be helpful to you if you are a practicing atorney and ,if a potential client, will give you insight into what a Trial lawyer should do to effectively represent your interests:
The most gifted Trial lawyers among us are highly successful orators. I use the term gifted because such innate ability is not common among all Trial lawyers. Those who can make a jury cry and stir their emotions with natural ease and innate ability are the few among us with this gift of oratory. These are the “show horses” of our profession. For the rest of us, we have to learn to be work horses in order to be successful at giving a winning summation. If we follow sound fundamentals, just like a football team, we can still deliver a winning summation even if we are not particularly gifted. The key is good, old fashioned, hard work. If one prepares properly and uses sound fundamentals, there is no reason one cannot be successful. What follows therefore are practical suggestions on how to go about giving a sound closing argument that is likely to yield a successful result.
It is said that when Winston Churchill had to give a fifteen minute speech, he would engage in six to eight hours of preparation beforehand. When he delivered his fifteen minute address, he did so eloquently and, it appeared to those observing, effortlessly. The truth is that it was not effortless at all, but instead the result of painstaking effort in organizing thoughts and succinctly summarizing them, well in advance of the planned delivery. Churchill prepared very hard for his so called “effortless and brilliant speech,” and thus, even though he appeared to be speaking extemporaneously, what the audience was hearing was the result of extremely hard work and intense preparation.
It is no different for the successful trial attorney. If you want to give a good closing argument, you must be extremely prepared. While this is axiomatic for those of us who have done a good deal of trial work, the point cannot be overemphasized. One should not rely upon the inspiration of the moment. There may not be any.
We have all heard that summation begins the moment you take a client’s case. This is quite true. In my personal practice, when I set up my file in any given case, I set up a “Closing Argument” section at the very beginning of the case. As I work on the case through the discovery phase, I am constantly putting written ideas into my “Closing Argument” file. If I think of something in the middle of the night or during the week, during a deposition or otherwise, I memorialize my thoughts on paper and put my thoughts into the “Closing Argument” file. I do this throughout the pendency of the case, all the way up to formal preparation of a Closing Argument Outline. If the case is not settled, by the time I get into intense trial preparation, I usually have a fairly thick file of closing argument thoughts. Thus, when I sit down to prepare an outline for my closing argument, I usually have 30 to 50 “points” of pithy statements and observations that I have been making over the many months that I have been working on the case. This gives me a headstart in determining which points of argument are the most persuasive, which I should use at the beginning of my argument, and which I might wish to save for rebuttal.
In short, I am always preparing for my summation and never wait until the last minute to do so. You should do the same.

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