The Art of the Trial: Closing Arguments


In his column on Art of the Trial: Closing Arguments, Brian Hennigan, who is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, shares tips on organizing the content of a closing argument, resisting the urge to rest, and how to avoid making jurors giggle in disbelief.

The trial is over. All witnesses have finished their testimony. The exhibits have either been received into evidence or never will be admitted. The trial court has reviewed with counsel the jury instructions. The jury is assembled in the box. The trial judge turns to you, telling the jury that it will first hear from plaintiff’s counsel, in closing argument. You stand, turn to the jury, and…

Clearly, this is not the time to start thinking about the form and substance of your closing argument. You have doubtlessly studied the subject before the day in court. You have researched the subject, and probably run though the argument with friends. Perhaps you have rehearsed it on the long commute to the courthouse during the trial. Depending on the size of the case and the anxiety level of your client, you have likely presented the closing argument to mock juries to gauge their response to your key points.

I have tried approximately 50 cases in federal and state court, as a federal prosecutor, a criminal defense counsel. I have tried criminal and civil cases on both the plaintiff and defense side. There is no “one size fits all” formula for effective closing arguments. But, there are a number of practice tips than attorney should keep in mind in designing and presenting an effective closing argument.

Read more in: The Daily Journal