TEN DO’S OF CLOSING ARGUMENTS
1. Be Sincere. Sincerity is probably the most important ingredient of a successful closing. Jurors now have a clinched-teeth determination not to be tricked. Be sincere and genuine.
2. Sound A Theme. Good lawyers sound a theme from voir dire through closing argument. Closing argument is naturally the finalization of the theme.
3. Strike The Balance On Time. Allow enough time to cover the major issues, but be brief enough to avoid boredom.
4. Encourage Active Thinking By The Jury. Jurors will be more convinced if they have participated in the thinking process and reasoning process. Encourage them to reach the proper conclusion rather than purely lecturing to them.
5. Appeal To High Motives. Tell jurors that it is important that they return their verdict for the right reason. They must be proud of their verdict.
6. Listen Closely To Opponent And Refute It All. Be very attentive to points being made by your opponent, and respond specifically to those – even though it may not fit with your pre-conceived agenda. The jury wants you to respond to every point made.
7. Observe Principles Of Primacy And Recency. Start and finish with strong points that will stick in the jury’s mind.
8. Be Yourself. Do not try to imitate anyone. Let your real personality carry the day for you.
9. Mix Logic With Heart and Soul. While you do need to have a logically sound argument, the jury is also in a mood to be moved by some heart and soul argument in most cases.
10. Use The Court Reporter. It is often very effective to pay the court reporter to type up some portion of direct testimony or cross-examination or your opponent’s opening statement. It makes a major impact upon the jury.
TEN DONT’S OF CLOSING ARGUMENTS
1. DON’T Try The Golden Rule Argument. You should not ask the jurors to place themselves in the shoes of a party to the case.
2. DON’T Try The Per Diem Argument. You should not ask the jury to compute damages by some mathematical formula which would entitle the plaintiff to a certain amount for pain and suffering.
3. DON’T Forget To Mention Damages In First Portion Of Closing Argument. If you fail to do this, you cannot argue damages in the rebuttal portion of your closing argument.
4. DON’T Try The Send A Message Argument If Punitive Damages Are Not An Issue. Such an argument injects a plea for punitive damages into the case, and is not allowable unless punitive damages have been submitted to the jury.
5. DON’T Misstate The Law. Misstatements of law are impermissible during closing argument, and a trial court has the duty, not discretion, to restrain and purge such arguments.
6. DON’T Ignore Instructions. Jurors are very attentive to the legal instructions given to them by the judge. Spend time making those clear and letting the jury know that they fit very well with your theory of the case and that you are comfortable with the jury instructions.
7. DON’T Short-Change Yourself On Rebuttal. A plaintiff with 25 minutes to argue should consider 15 for the first portion and 10 minutes for rebuttal. This is a tremendous opportunity to drive home points and to un-do whatever damage your opponent has done in his or her closing argument.
8. DON’T Sound Stiff. Jurors will appreciate a lawyer who can get up and “talk” with them rather than address them or lecture them or perform outlandishly for them. Talk with them.
9. DON’T Make Useless Objections. Only object if you believe the matter is critical. Most objections during closing argument are overruled. It just adds to your opponent’s momentum for this to happen.
10. DON’T Talk Too Fast Or Try To Make Too Many Points. You should try instead for a well-reasoned, comfortably paced argument that hits the high points and allows the jury to absorb them.