Closing argument is the lawyer’s final opportunity in a trial to tell the judge and/or jury why they should win the case. They do so by explaining how the evidence supports their theory of the case, and by clarifying for the jury any issues that they must resolve in order to render a verdict. Closing arguments take place after all the evidence has been presented and both sides have rested their cases, and they have a lot of power to impact the jury’s decision since it is the last thing the jury will hear.
Contrary to the rest of the trial where the lawyer has to extract information from witnesses following strict evidence rules, closing argument is the lawyer’s time to dramatize the case and tell the jury a story. Here, the lawyer is trying to convince the jury to come out with a verdict in their favor, and they often employ creative strategies and techniques to do so. However, the lawyer can only do this by relying on the evidence presented, and cannot ask the jury to consider any factors other than what has been presented in court. For example, the lawyer cannot try to get the jury to use their prejudice or personal biases in determining the outcome of the case. The lawyer can only comment on the evidence, explain the evidence, and tell the jury that they should be convinced by what was presented throughout the trial.
Both sides at trial present a closing argument. In a criminal case, this means that a closing argument will be made by the prosecutor and by defense counsel (the lawyer representing the person being accused of committing the crime). In a civil case, this means that a closing argument will be made by both the plaintiff’s lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer, whereby the plaintiff is the one who brought the suit and the defendant is the one being sued.
[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]