The Art and Architecture of Closing Argument

111 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2013

See all articles by Harry M. Caldwell

Harry M. Caldwell

Pepperdine University - School of Law

L. Timothy Perrin

Independent

Christopher L. Frost

University of Oklahoma

Date Written: 2002

Abstract

In this article, the authors offer a blueprint for effective closing arguments. The closing argument presents unique challenges and opportunities for trial lawyers. It requires the mastery of a wide range of skills, from explaining the relevant law and integrating it with trial testimony, to incorporating selectively recalled testimony into a comprehensive theme, mitigating or integrating damaging evidence and arguments, and striking the proper emotional tone. And advocates must do all of this with the ultimate goal of persuading the trier of fact to view the case from their perspective. Relying on empirical data from the social sciences and drawing on closing arguments by master advocates, including Abraham Lincoln, Clarence Darrow, Louis Nizer, and Gerry Spence among others, the authors identify ten principles that guide and shape effective closing arguments. The authors, in analyzing the closing argument from both practical and theoretical perspectives, draw on the practical wisdom that comes from past successes and the empirical truths that come from social-science observation and experimentation. Those perspectives reveal that ultimate success comes when advocates are credible, organized, thematic, clear, direct and brief; when they reason through the evidence with the jury; when they use analogies, stories, and demonstrative aids, and connect the case to each juror's emotions.

Keywords: Closing argument, trial lawyer

Suggested Citation

Caldwell, Harry M. and Perrin, L. Timothy and Frost, Christopher L., The Art and Architecture of Closing Argument (2002). Tulane Law Review, Vol. 76, No. 961, 2002; Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2207713

Harry M. Caldwell (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

L. Timothy Perrin

Independent

No Address Available

Christopher L. Frost

University of Oklahoma ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States

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