There is an old adage that every trial lawyer should accept as gospel: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” Keeping this maxim in mind, attorneys must strive to make a winning impression early on in the trial so they can use that impression to set the tone for each phase of the remainder of the trial.

Trial lawyers frequently do not appreciate the importance of first impressions and fail to seize the opportunity to make a strong one. For example, it is a waste of valuable time to begin an opening statement by telling the jury that the “opening statement is like a road map” or that “an opening statement is like a table of contents.” Even worse is the statement made by some lawyers that, “an opening statement is not evidence and nothing I say should be viewed as evidence.” Lawyers who make such statements undercut their credibility from the start and have essentially told the jury, “I’m either going to bore you to death or I have nothing of value to tell you.”

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