For an attorney, the key to establishing credibility and delivering a persuasive opening statement is to approach the jury and begin trial in the frame of mind that you were in when you first met your client. I is mportant to be the open-minded, objective, skeptical person you were when you were unsure whether to take the case, not the confidant, closed-minded lawyer you have become learning about the case and preparing for trial. Take the jurors through your skepticisms, doubts, and reservations. Say them out loud, because these are the same skepticisms, doubts, and reservations that your jurors will be thinking about at that moment. Share with them the questions you asked and the answers you needed to know to determine whether the case was legitimate, or worth defending. What did YOU need to know to determine if the case had merit? Your jurors probably have the same questions, and voicing your questions show the jurors that you were focused on seeking the truth, not building a smokescreen.
Give the jurors examples of things that, had you found them, would have convinced you NOT to take the case. Tell the jurors things that, had you found them, would have made you drop certain claims or damage requests, or concede liability or causation (or perhaps settle the case entirely). For example, “had I found that Mr. Martinez was being lazy about searching for a new job, I wouldn’t be asking for lost wages.” Or perhaps “had human resources suspended the defendant or allowed Ms. Johnson to transfer to a different location, I wouldn’t be suing the company for this sexual harassment as well.” Build additional credibility by admitting all your weaknesses, and give the jurors your honest opinion about why (in your mind) your strengths outweigh those weaknesses. Even better, tell the jurors about all the damages that you are NOT asking for (or conceding), and why. Show the jurors that you are being reasonable instead of greedy, because skeptical jurors assume that frivolous lawsuits don’t leave any claims and damages out, and that dishonest defenses deny any and all liability and causation.