How to Write an Opening Argument for a Mock Trial

How to Write an Opening Argument for a Mock Trial

In a trial, the opening argument is the lawyer's first chance to win over the judge and jury. It is the first impression the jury will have of a case, and so it can make or break a verdict. In mock trials, opening arguments are just as important. However, mock trial opening arguments, unlike opening statements in real trials, usually are subject to time limitations. Prepare an opening argument just as you would any important public speech.

1 Introduce Yourself

Introduce yourself and the members of your team. Address the judge and jury using appropriate courtroom language, such as "Your honor, members of the jury, I am [name] and I represent [name of party]. To my [left, right] are my colleagues [name other members.]"

2 Describe Your Case

Explain all of the relevant circumstances surrounding your case. Write a brief sentence or two regarding the reason for the trial. For example, in a trial for murder, you can state: "My client, [name of client], has been charged with first degree murder in the death of [victim] on [date]. We will present evidence to you that [name of client] could not have committed this crime."

3 Outline Your Argument's Claims

Introduce the argument by outlining the most relevant points of your case. Try to limit your case to three or four points. State your argument firmly by writing: "We will show that the defendant is not guilty of murder because he has an alibi for the night of the murder; our experts will further prove that the defendant's DNA was not found at the scene of the crime; and we will show that the police investigation and subsequent evidence gathering was poorly carried out."

4 Expand Your Reasoning

Give details as your argue your points. The details should include the witnesses (expert and lay witnesses) that you will call to the stand and what they will say, as well as the type of evidence that you will offer.

5 Summarize Your Case

End your argument by thanking the members of the jury and the judge. Restate your main points in a short sentence or two; then thank everyone for their attention. Your listener will remember the beginning and ending of your argument more than anything else, so make your summation count.

  • The proper way to address the judge is, "Your Honor." Jurors can be addressed by stating, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury."
  • Memorize the statement so that you can look directly at the jury without referring to your text.

Trudie Longren began writing in 2008 for legal publications, including the "American Journal of Criminal Law." She has served as a classroom teacher and legal writing professor. Longren holds a bachelor's degree in international politics, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in human rights. She also speaks Spanish and French.