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Opening Statement

OPENING STATEMENTAn opening statement is the first thing each party presents in court, the first chance they get to present their case to the judge and/or jury. The statement is a short speech that introduces a party and his/her case to the court.

Attorneys are experienced in delivering opening statements and are likely to have a good feel for the specific judge or jury members, knowing how to present the opening statement so as to win the decisionmaker over in their client’s favor. For someone who has less experience, as plaintiffs or defendants who have chosen to self-represent themselves in court, the most important thing to focus on is that the opening statement makes an important first impression—and as the saying goes, a party does not get a second chance to make that first impression.


The goal of a trial is for each party to attempt to persuade the judge or jury that they should prevail over the other party. This persuasion begins with the opening statement.
The statement should concisely explain what the party intends to prove and why their argument is the one that should prevail. It must be delivered confidently and with an assurance that one’s argument is the correct one. The judge and jury must, during and after listening to the opening statement, believe that the party is truthful and sincere, and that the evidence they claim they will present will be sufficient to warrant a judgment in their favor.


It is crucial for a party to get the judge and jury interested in his/her story, and doing so beginning with the opening statement goes a long way toward “hooking the audience.” If the opening is delivered in a boring, bland way, in monotone and without making eye contact, the audience—judge, jury, witnesses, etc.—will quickly lose interest.
The person delivering the opening statement should speak clearly and confidently, look at their audience, and be passionate about their case. If the jury and judge see how much it means to a party to prevail in the lawsuit, they are more likely to be genuinely concerned about the outcome of the case and about how it will affect the person.


The opening statement should paint a complete picture of the case. It is important to present a clear theme, and to do so in a straightforward manner that will neither confuse nor bore the decisionmaker. A party should determine a to-the-point statement that establishes why their position is the correct one, and make that the focus of their opening argument and of their case as a whole. Include the following information:

  • Evidence that will be presented
  • Witnesses who will take the stand, what they are expected to say
  • Illustrative information that will be used, including pictures, reports, diagrams, charts, graphs, etc.


The opening statement is just that—the opening to the case. This portion of the trial is intended to describe what the evidence will show, and should be NON-ARGUMENTATIVE. This means that the opening statement is not the time to attach the credibility of the other party, which can be done during the course of the trial.
The purpose of the opening statement is only to prepare the court for what a party’s arguments will be and to create a rapport with the court, inspiring the trust and sympathy of the decisionmaker.


There are several tools that a party can use to increase the persuasiveness of their opening statement. The following are useful techniques to employ:

  • Description—the more detailed and descriptive an opening statement is, the more likely the decision maker is to remember the essential points
  • Personality—a party should let the positive aspects of their personality show through; juries, especially, may be able to relate better to a party and their position with whom they can sympathize
  • Rhetorical Questions—questions that are presented can be very effective in getting the jury to think along the same lines as the party offering the question
  • Bookending—it is useful to offer the strongest aspects of one’s case at the beginning of the opening argument, and repeat them at the end, so that if the jury remembers nothing else they will retain those key points of the argument

Opponent’s Case

The opening statement should generally keep the focus on the strong points of the party’s case, but there is room for mentioning some of the weakness of one’s opponent’s case. Additionally, it may help to offer up-front some of the weaknesses of one’s own case and present, briefly, defenses to those arguments which are likely to crop up in the opposing party’s argument. This will enhance one’s credibility from the outset and when you are dealing with a jury, your credibility can win or lose the case. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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