Posts tagged opening statement
Ride the Ducks Trial Day 11: Opening Statement

Walk into courtroom with Alysha.  Most of law firm family have come to watch.  Clients many with co-counsel have arrived.  Some from around the world.    Press is establishing base camp in the rear.  As the minutes approach 9 the room fills. 

Put bags on the table.  Step out of tennies and into heels.  Walk behind 85” tv that is in front right corner of the room.  Breathe in and out.  Kevin the court reporter is setting up.  He says are you trying to avoid all the people.  Nod at him.  Smile.  Find center.

Judge Shaffer enters just before 9.  Jury comes in.  Sits.  Instructions are read.  Judge says:  now please turn your attention to the plaintiff for opening statement.

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Damages Opening Statement: catastrophic brain injury case

Both sides used extensive demonstrative exhibits during opening.  Basically we agreed that I could use what I wanted so long as they could use what they wanted.

The transcript is not very accurate (understatement).  The courtroom was video recorded.  If we wanted a quick transcript, at the end of the day  the bailiff would copy the recordings and provided them to a court reporter. The reporter would then transcribe from the videos with only moderate success.

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The angry juror: a trial diary story

 This excerpt is from a 2012 trial.

Trial day 2

Arrive early to get everything set up for opening.  The Prolumina (tech) guy is there to run everything for Nick the defense lawyer.  He is playing with our big tv.  We are chit chatting and my computer won’t boot up. Are you kidding me.  Hard start it.  Nothing.  Not panicked at all.  Which sounds ridiculous.  Should be hyperventillating.

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What defense lawyers like plaintiff lawyers to do in opening.

Number 1:  Ignore the defense.

We set the case up for disaster if we build it way up and ignore what the defense is going to do to it.    This would be like a basketball coach only having the team practice offense.

Instead, the coach studies the next opponent.  Maybe sends out a scout.  Watches film.  Devises strategies.  Practices then implements them.  Because sometimes, the best offense is a good defense.

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Should the dead person have been allowed to tell the story

I told my kids a lot of stories when they were little.  Pictures were good and well.  But what they really liked was when I acted out the characters.

In trial opening is the opportunity to tell the story.  There are no rules that say we need to read it and be boring.  Over the years I have ben a bus, a cross walk, and other various objects or people when I've told the opening story.   But look what happened in this case.  The judge was not used to having a story told with quite as much dramatic flair.

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Tips for attorneys - from a children's novelist

We are rewarded in school for using sentences so complex, that the reader or listener is virtually tortured by them.  As grown up lawyers this means we tend to spout legalese to normal people.  How as trial lawyers do we shrug off these intellectual habits.  So we can tell a good story.

Look at these tips from C.S. Lewis (he of The Chronicles of Narnia fame).  This is taken from a letter he wrote to a young Fan in 1956.

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The psychic jury artist

The air starts crackling.

My mom, Mary Fung,  has come to watch opening.  Her smile stretches the width of her face.  She is wearing a polyester blue and white teeny striped suit that I distinctly remember from the 1970s.  Over a blue pair of Nike shock sneakers that I used to run in.  Hair pinned up in its forever bun.  She looks fairly adorable.  Everyone in the courtroom smiles back at her.

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Don't ignore the defense in opening statement

We set the case up for disaster if we build it way up and ignore what the defense is going to do to it.    This would be like a basketball coach only having the team practice offense.

Instead, the coach studies the opponent.  Maybe sends out a scout.  Watches film.  Devises strategies.  Has the team practice then implement them.

We've all heard the saying -sometimes, the best offense is a good defense.

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Quick List of Opening Statement Do's & Dont's
  • Do take a breath and center yourself before you begin.
  • Do speak at thinking speed which usually means slow down.
  • Do stand at a distance that is not too far away yet not too close to the jury.
  • Do avoid podiums except in Federal Court where you have no choice but to stand behind them.
  • Don’t block the jury’s view if you are using Powerpoint or showing things.
  • Do use Powerpoint and show things
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The Sleeper

After the weather made a fairly poor weekend showing, I wake up to fabulous blue skies.  This means that I arrive at the office in a sleeveless  lace t-shirt top and cropped jeans that end at the knees.  As I look over my calendar I realize - darn.  Double darn.  We still don't have confirmation on a deposit of a verdict in a  minor's blocked account.  I need to go to court at 1:30.  Fortunately, Ed is coming to the office so he grabs a skirt and I'm good to go. Or at least I think I am.

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