Why smart trial lawyers start and finish their presentations with “bookends” and why you should too!

In my jury trials, I usually start off with calling my strongest witness to the stand. Someone who, through my direct examination, can clearly and persuasively testify as to the facts and details of my case. Doing this helps set my left bookend.

At the end of the case, which sometimes happens weeks after we start, I make sure to finish with another strong and powerful bookend. Specifically, the type of bookend that will leave a lasting emotional impact on my jury.

The formula to persuading 12 complete jurors is frankly, multi-layered and complicated. But at the top of my persuasion checklist is the concept of always starting and finishing with the correct left and right bookends.

The Bookend on the Left (facts and context)

The first bookend is one designed to establish facts, credibility, and trust. Starting with my first witness, I use him or her to explain the facts of my case. I keep things simple and don’t ask my jury to do anything other than listening to the evidence. I want to build rapport with my jury.

Sometimes, if I’m representing someone who was harmed by a very unlikeable defendant, I’ll call the defendant as my first witness and share certain facts and tell my client’s story through his direct examination. 
Each witness I call to the stand and each piece of evidence I introduce and talk about explains and describes the facts. I’m honest and don’t exaggerate the situation. I respect and avoid any unnecessary wasted time or inconvenience to my jury.

The Bookend on the Right (harm and emotions)

The second important bookend is all about showing and leaving my jury with a good understanding of the physical and emotional harm, loss and damages. The game plan is to make sure my last witness leaves nothing on the table, and his or her emotional testimony leaves my jury with a lasting impression as to the harm and impact of what the defendant did to my client’s life.

By using the right bookend correctly, at the end of the trial, the jury understands and appreciates how my client’s life has forever been changed by the wrongful and careless conduct of the bad defendant. They get it. They don’t feel as though my client or I are reaching for something that isn’t reasonable. Both the facts and harm make sense.

One more thought. I believe jurors tend to remember and focus on the last important thing they hear during a trial. Saving the emotionally focused right-side bookend for the end of the trial helps plant seeds that may be harvested later in the jury deliberation room.

For all of these reasons, if I flipped things around and instead started my trial with the right bookend first, the emotional and harm arguments just wouldn’t have any impact or credibility. The jury wouldn’t have the right context to properly absorb the information and appreciate the harm and loss.

Outside of the Courtroom

You can do the same thing when you’re making a presentation to a single person or large audience.

It’s important to start with the left bookend to build a relationship based upon the facts, credibility, and trust. Sharing details is critical. Being transparent and the first to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of your product or service will allow you to earn the respect and trust of your audience.

While you’re doing this, you need to keep the attention of your audience. Attention spans are short in today’s fast-paced digital world, and people will quickly tune you out. Avoid this from happening by presenting facts using short and pithy stories, diagrams, pictures, and videos. Keep things interesting and accurate.

After you have shared all the necessary facts and established yourself as the person in the room or on the stage that everyone can trust, then and only then should you pull out and use the right bookend. But once you do, don’t hold anything back. Share the emotional side of your presentation and finish with your specific and unambiguous call to action.


Persuasion is a process starting with two properly placed and utilized bookends. The left bookend is all about facts, details, and building rapport. The right bookend is focused on emotion, harm, and call to action.

Start your presentation off with the left bookend and use the first part of your sales pitch or presentation to share facts and details. Earn the trust of your audience by being the first to share negative issues. Don’t highlight them but do bring them up and then move on. Become the trusted advisor and expert in the room.

Once you’ve completed this first step, continue with your presentation and at the end, show them the right bookend. Take things to the next level and start to focus on the more subjective emotional aspect of your presentation and finally, your call to action.

Always bring both bookends to your presentation and try not to get them mixed up. Be patient and let your audience digest and appreciate the facts before asking them to fix the harm, right the wrong, or follow your call to action.


Mitch Jackson is an award-winning California Trial Lawyer and in 2013 was named one of California’s Litigation Lawyers of the Year. In 2009 he was also recognized as one of Orange County’s Trial Lawyers of the Year. When he’s not in court trying cases, Mitch enjoys showing professionals, business owners, and entrepreneurs how to become better communicators and use social media and live streaming to disrupt, hack and improve their professional relationships, businesses and practices.

Connect with Mitch on Twitter @MitchJackson and at his law firm JacksonandWilson.com. Mitch’s live streaming videos are shared at Streaming. Lawyer and his popular weekly talk shows are TheShow.live and LawandOrder.live