Closing the Deal: Principles of Closing Argument Grounded in Empirical Studies and Lessons of the Masters

Author: Harry Mitchell Caldwell


A sound closing argument can indeed close the deal.  A well-executed argument pulls together the evidence in a compelling, persuasive, and successful statement.  Conversely, a closing argument that pontificates and opines, rehashes testimony, or continues ad nauseam, fails to engage the jury and has a diminished chance of success.  There are scores of lawyers trying cases; there are far fewer who lift trial advocacy to an art.  It is to that lofty plane that this Article is dedicated.

Drawing on empirical data studying audience responsiveness, retention, and persuasiveness coupled with excerpts from master trial lawyers, advocates have learned valuable lessons.  The lessons include respecting the collective intelligence of the jury by reasoning with them rather than pontificating at them, sounding themes favoring the advocate’s case, using stories and anecdotes as clarifiers, creating a list to organize critical evidence, studying and responding to juror body language, mitigating harmful evidence, and avoiding wordiness.

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