Lawyer Jeffrey Kroll was recently published in the recently released book by Trial Guides and the American Association for Justice called Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit, 4th edition. The fourth edition of Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit, a two-volume set, is a comprehensive and up-to-date resource for practicing plaintiffs’ attorneys and their staffs. The how-to guide provides insight into pursuing a personal injury case from the initial client interview to settlement and the claims process.
Mr. Kroll’s chapter is titled “Summation in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death.”
Summation is the most enjoyable part of a trial lawyer’s work. When people discuss what a great lawyer can do better than other lawyers, the answer is often found in argument. Yet many attorneys prepare their final argument the night before and summarize the testimony that the jury heard at trial. Preparation does not begin the night before closing arguments! Instead, you should begin preparing for preparing for final argument the moment the client walks in your office.
Your final argument may not determine the outcome of a case. Often enough, the adage is true: facts win cases. And yet, a powerful closing can empower the jury to right a wrong. Closings are exciting because they are one of the few point in trial at which logic an emotion converge. Trial lawyers have the ability to move a jury to a call of action. Facts are conductors, and closing argument is what electrifies those facts. With the right argument, the facts may be given power to enlighten. That is our task during summation.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to persuade a jury when reading from your notes. Never read your closing argument. I always memorize the first five minutes of mine. I make eye contact with each juror and persuasively and passionately begin my closing. It is acceptable to have some notes or an outline nearby. I always have a single sheet of paper taped to the podium that highlights key words, phrases, or dates. It is my reminder of the crucial information I must address with the jury.
The only true notes I bring with me contain the allegations or charges of negligence and all of the evidence to support each allegations.
The saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is very true. Feel free to emulate others. But there is a significant difference between borrowing from others and acting like others. It’s important to be yourself. Use your natural speaking voice. Work on incorporating inflections, pauses and appropriate mannerisms to emphasize keys points. Use analogies you are comfortable with. Jurors will recognize if you are trying to act like someone else. Everyone hates a phony.
A theme is a phrase that brings a vision to jurors. You must plan a case theme well in advance of trial and repeat it often during voir dire, opening statements, the examination of witnesses, and closing arguments. Jurors must remember and understand your theme. Sound bites often make for compelling themes for the same reason an effective movie trailer might encourage people to see a film-it grabs your attention. When you see a trailer, you want to see the movie. A theme is no different. Your theme must grab the jurors’ attention. You want them to hear your story so they believe they can right a wrong.
Analogies are a convincing way to get your point across to jurors. They often require lengthier storytelling than metaphors of similes, but I believe analogies can be more persuasive. Anyone who has served in the military or played sports is keenly aware that drill sergeants and coaches are great fans of analogies. I encourage you to use analogies early and often.
Similes are also useful in persuading jurors. A simile is a figure of speech expressing a comparison or likeness. Similes are short, simple, and memorable. Like simile, hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses exaggeration or overstatement to make a point. Hyperbole has long been one of the figurative techniques of oral advocacy. Hyperbole is part of our legal heritage and everyday language. Hyperbole is also a compelling way to communicate with a jury because it can make a complicated point seem simple.
The rule of three involves the use of three words, phrases, or ideas to convey a message to the listener. The repetition of three often sticks in the listener’s mind. It is nice to have a theme with three words that jurors will remember.
To read more about this chapter, you can find Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit, 4th edition available for sale on Trial Guide’s website: http://www.trialguides.com/book/anatomy-of-a-personal-injury-lawsuit/