The Masters Course

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The Masters Course

This video goes beyond mere lecture and simple demonstration.  It offers a theory.  It tests that theory through live and videotaped performances.  It examines that theory with probing analysis and the greatest care.  This video demonstrates the techniques of opening, direct, cross and summation, and pulls them together into a systematic strategy for WINNING!

See the excerpt below the description:  Trying Cases to Win, The Masters Course that discusses the Rule of Probability.

A Partial List of Key Points Covered:

  • Principles of opening
  • Order of opening
  • How to construct an opening
  • How to protect against your adversary's best arguments
  • The four levels of advocacy
  • How to make provisions against opening arguments
  • Planning the Plaintiff's opening
  • Use of whiteboards and exhibits to make testimony memorable
  • "Rule of Probability" and its critical importance to the jury
  • Attacking the credibility of your oponent


The thousands of experienced trial lawyers who have heard Herbert J. Stern lecture or read his books agree that he is the finest teacher of trial advocacy in the United States.  It is fitting that he would now tackle the best, most used case file ever developed, Dixon v. Prudential Life Insurance Co.*  In order to win this case, the trial lawyer must use the highest skills.  Throughout this riveting presentation Stern proves that the trial lawyer's skill does make the difference between winning and losing.  Stern takes the viewer through the case and coldly analyzes what does and does not work by critiquing demonstrations from such distinguished trial lawyers as:  Robert Hanley, Benjamin Civiletti, James St. Clair, Judah Best, Bruce Goldstein, Herb Stern and others.

This is a widely used case file in Trial Advocacy programs and law schools.

* (c) by National Institute for Trial Advocacy

Detailed Course Outline


Introduction: Overview of program
Principles of opening
On direct and cross-examination, argue your case through the witness to the jury
Review of case file
Commit yourself on opening
Order of opening – burden of proof
Video Deomonstration: Opening for Plaintiff by Robert Hanley
Critique of Robert Hanley opening
Strengths and weaknesses of opening
The four levels of advocacy
How to construct and opening statement - Analysis of plaintiff's case
Review the testimony of all witnesses - Analysis of cross-examination of Sheriff Webb
Video Demonstration: Cross-examination of Sheriff Webb by Herbert Stern
How to achive a "yes" answer
The rule of probability - Risks created by plaintiff on opening
Live Demonstration: Opening for the defense by Herbert Stern
Defense response to plaintiff's opening statement
How to attack the credibility of your opponent
How to protect against your adversary's best arguments
End of Tape 1 - Lecture continues on Tape 2



Continuation: opening for the defense by Herbert Stern
Analysis of Stern's opening
How to make provisions against opening arguments
Planning the Plaintiff's opening
Video demonstration: opening for the defense by Benjamin Civiletti
Stop-action critique of opening statment by Benjamin Civiletti
Use of blackboards and exhibits to make testimony memorable
Develop a central theme
Do not maintain a a fluid position
End of Benjamin Civiletti
Take a stance
Identify what you must prove and say that you will prove it
Developing the case from the plaintiff's perspective
The rule of probability
How to develop a central theme that works
How to decide what the jury will believe
What you can prove
Who will be believed
Never get emotionally involved
Social scientists are not necessary to evaluate your case
To prepare you opening, first prepare an opening for the other side
How to attack the crediblility of your adversary
How to determine the order of witnesses
Put witnesses on earliest that help you the most and hurt the least
Protecting your witness from cross-examination
Live demonstration: Sample cross-examination of Wilson by Herbert Stern
Why you must call Judge Dixon a thief
The order of witnessses
Analysis of proposed cross-examination of Burns
Strategy for dealing with the most important defense witness
Video demonstration: Cross-examination of Burns by Herbert Stern
Stop-action critique
Advocate you case through tthe witness
How to handle difficult and evasive witnesses
End of Tape 2 - Lecture continues on Tape 3



Introduction: Direct examination of Burns by defense
Video demonstration: Direct examination of Burns by James St. Claire
Argue your case through the witness to the jury
Don't wait to tie it up later
How to insulate your witness from cross-examination
The lawyer should read to the jury not the witness
Live demonstration: Direct examination of Burns by Herbert Stern
Foundation of exhibits
How to argue your case to the jury through your witness on direct examination
How to introduce conversations
Offers of proof
Video Demonstration: Cross-examination of Burns by Burce Goldstein
How to lead and control a witness
Do not insist on the "yes" or "no" answer
"Thank you" statements by counsel directed at a witness are improper
End of cross-examination by Bruce Goldstein
Analysis of how plaintiff should handle two vital but vulnerable defense witnesses, Crowe and Wilson
To open properly you must first hear in your mind the direct and cross-examination of each witness
Video demonstration: Cross-examination of Wilson by Herbert Stern
Switching from leading to non-leading questions
How to cross-examine Norman Crowe
Video demonstration: Cross-examination of Crowe by Herbert Stern
End of demonstration
Review of theory of the case
How to develop the strongest central theme
The principles of advocacy
End of Tape 3 - Lecture continues on Tape 4



How to prepare a proper opening statement: the highest form of the art
Introcution ot the opening statement
How to develop a central theme and strategy for your case
Live demonstration: Opening statment for Plaintiff by Herbert Stern
Critique of Stern's opening
Develop the facts
What on the propbabilities will sell
Choose between probabilities
Introdution to opening for defendant
Your organization and structure must remain the same
Reduce your theme to its point of greatest strength
Discussion of opening for the defense
The advantage of opening first
The burden of proof is worth noting
Willingly accept the burden of prooof
Motion in limine for the right to open first
The motion in limine as a device
The only person who should mention the burden of proof is the one that bears it
Length of openings
Video demonstration: Opening statement for the defense by James St. Claire
How to open the strongest way
Direct examination
How to prepare a witness
Live demonstration: Herbert Stern demonstrates how to prepare a witness for direct examination
Live demonstration: Direct examination of plaintiff by Herbert Stern
Use of transition questions
End of Tape 4 - Lecture continues on Tape 5



Continuation of direct examination of plaintiff by Herbert Stern
Video demonstration: Direct examination of plaintiff by Judah Best
Set the stage early
Organize by topic
Use short questions to get repetition and emphasis
Introduction of cross-examination of plaintiff
Live sample cross-examination by Herbert Stern
Three forms of cross-examination: to limit, to obtain, to attack credibility
Video demonstration: Cross-examination of plaintiff by James Shellow
Only attack credibility if you have to
Attacking credibility when you don't have to is suicidal
The rule of probability is the mightiest weapon of the trial lawyer
End of Tape 5 - Lecture continues on Tape 6



Video demonstration: Direct examination of Anna Martin by Stephan Duncan
Introduce the witness
How to control the witness
Break up the testimony into small pieces
Use short questions
Cross-examination of Anna Martin by Herbert Stern
Introduction of direct examination of Sheriff Webb
Minimize exposure on cross by giving the jury and witness ammunition on direct
Sample live direct examination of Webb by Herbert Stern
Do not allow the witness to be the advocate in the courtroom
Closing Argument
The longer the trial the less important is the closing argument
The purpose of closing is to give your allies on the jury the ammunition to fight for you case
Polling jurors
Read Back Testimony form trial transcript
Use of exhibits
Video Demonstration: Closing for the defense by Herbert Stern
Thank the jurors
Don not deviate from the organization of your closing
End of Tape 6 - Lecture continue on tape 7



Video demonstration: closing for the Plaintiff by Herbert Stern
Summary of program
End of program


Viewing Time: 6 hours

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