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How Long Should Opening Statements In a Trial Last? by Robert Gerchen – Senior Consultant, Litigation Insights


In a recent article, we explored how long closing arguments should be (hint: the shorter the better). Yet almost just as often as we are asked how long a closing should be, we are asked how long an opening statement should last. This answer is a little different. First, though, let’s take a look at the true purpose of an opening statement.

The Purpose of the Opening Statement – It’s More Than a Road Map

‘Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em.

‘The opening is a ‘road map’ of what is going to be presented in the case.’

So goes conventional wisdom, which says that the opening isn’t intended to persuade, but rather just to foreshadow – a preview, as it were. Like a trailer to a movie.

Have you ever noticed how we often (read: almost always) determine whether we’re going to like a movie based on viewing the trailer? If the trailer is bland, or evokes no emotion within us, do we want to see the movie? If it’s loaded with action and humor and characters we can already tell we’re going to like, don’t we want to see the movie? How often in a theatre have you turned to a friend after viewing a trailer and whispered, ‘I want to see that,’ or, ‘I think I’ll pass.’ Pretty much every time, right? . . . .