EFFECTIVE CLOSING ARGUMENT

I rarely publish guest articles or blog posts from other people, but I thought this was a good summary of the fundamentals regarding closing argument. I felt the enthusiasm of this aspiring lawyer Kevin Moore should be acknowledged, so here it is for your consideration.

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Kevin is a 23-year-old writer and aspiring lawyer who lives, studies and works in NYC. His interest in the law stems from his passion to help the less fortunate, and he hopes to eventually have his own law firm that he uses to advocate for the rights of people who often have no voice. In rare moments of spare time, Kevin loves studying history and visiting historical sites and museums. You can reach out to him at moore.kevj@gmail.com

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How to Construct Effective Closing Arguments

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Closing arguments give you the chance to convey your client’s story in a way you want the jury to understand. It is a summary of the facts and evidence presented during the trial composed in a way that is favorable to your client.

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During the trial, the plaintiff usually presents the closing argument first, followed by the defendant. Since the burden of proof usually lies on the plaintiff, they are often given a chance to rebut the defendant’s statements. However, if the defendant decides not to give any closing arguments, there’s no need for the plaintiff to present any rebuttal.

Do’s and Don’ts in Closing Arguments

Lawyers are taught how to think like a lawyer in law school. With that said, it is safe to assume that a lawyer already knows the general mechanics of composing a closing argument. However, an actual trial is different from your studies.

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A lawyer’s closing arguments vary from case to case and depend on a lot of factors. Whether you’re a New York personal injury lawyer or a California divorce attorney- whatever field of law you specialize in or state you are living right now, learning how to construct strong closing arguments is a must. Doing so will help all of your cases now and in the future.

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Below are the do’s and don’ts that you need to know in constructing your closing arguments.

Do’s:

Prepare your Closing Arguments Beforehand.

Preparation is the key to a successful closing argument. As such, it is best to compose your closing argument right away after collecting sufficient facts and evidence from the case. It’s good to jot down the analogies, exhibits, theory of the case, label, themes, and other helpful ideas you think are necessary to help you prepare.

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Also, research about how the judge is with technicalities in presenting closing arguments. Doing so will help you formalize the actual presentation. How does the judge handle closing arguments? What rules does the judge usually apply in presenting closing arguments? What jury instructions does the judge usually emphasize?

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Finally, as part of your preparation, you need to rehearse your closing arguments. A good storyteller has a great connection with the audience. Since you are telling your client’s side of the story, it is crucial to have a close connection with the jury so they understand what you are trying to convey. Aside from having a compelling argument, this can also be achieved through eye contact, correct delivery, and good gestures.

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Compose a Striking Introduction

Just like any other human being, a jury’s attention span can also be short. Therefore, it is best to manage your time wisely and start off with a remarkable introduction. Doing so will focus the jury’s attention on your presentation a whole lot easier. Moreover, your introduction should include a portion of why your client should win the case.

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Talk About the Burden of Proof

The burden of proof provides which party is responsible for the case at hand. It usually lies on the plaintiff, while the defendant counteracts such arguments. Furthermore, it is essential to discuss the burden of proof to the jury because it plays a big part in deciding the outcome of the case.

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Assess the Evidence

Summarize all the facts, evidence, and testimonies given and present it in a way the jury can relate to. Always remember that your goal here is to convey your client’s story. You can begin by concluding the undisputed facts, the significance of the evidence, and emphasizing the witness’ credibility. It will also help if you establish the story chronologically so that the jury can better understand how things transpired.

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Make a Rebuttal

You should be able to anticipate your opponent’s closing arguments, which may include the facts against your case. As a lawyer, it is your job to neutralize your client’s possible weaknesses in the case. Such weaknesses should be taken into consideration in constructing your argument.

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Moreover, after presenting your strong points of the case, it is vital to attack the opponent’s possible strong points as well. Doing so will weaken your opponent’s possible arguments against you and help you have a successful closing argument.

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Consider Jury Instructions

The judge provides jury instructions to the jury in helping them deliberate the outcome of the case. The jury is expected to comply with these instructions and recognize legal terms such as the burden of proof, proximate cause, and the like.

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Therefore, you should present your closing arguments considering the jury instructions given and explain the instruction’s significance to the case for the jury to understand.

Don’ts:

Do not make a tedious argument
Do not present new evidence
Do not make personal attacks
Do not fabricate evidence
Do not misstate the law
Do not state personal beliefs

Takeaway

Closing arguments are crucial, providing the jury the last impression before deciding the outcome of the case. It is your final opportunity to argue the case on behalf of your client. Therefore, it is essential to do your best and construct a strong and compelling closing argument.

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