The Primacy/Recency effect is the observation that information presented in the beginning i.e. Primacy and the end i.e. Recency of a learning episode tends to be retained better than the information presented in the middle

This applies to public speaking as well as to your persuasive writing. As my journalism professor described it as “the Hook (primacy )  and Hammer (recency )  “ . A great example are the writings of opinion columnist Leonard Pitts , Jr.

One need to consider Primacy/Recency as a part of their litigation toolbox. In your Opening and Closing statements, studies have shown that you have 30 to 60 seconds to get your listeners attention . Let the listener ( Judge /Jury)  know why it is important for them to keep on listening.  End strongly with a memorable quote, call to action or a message that will keep the listener ( Judge/Jury)  thinking long after you have finished your remarks .

I would also suggest that Primacy/ Recency also applies to your order of calling witnesses as well as your Direct and Cross Examinations of those who are called to testify. If the judge allows it, try to call your strongest witnesses,  first and last . In your examination of witnesses, particularly cross examination of an adverse witness, your first set of questions should be your strongest set of questions . The first line of questioning should be so strong that the adverse witness starts talking to themselves . And end your questioning with your second strongest set of questions literally knocking themselves out of the witness stand . 


Credit: Various studies on primacy and recency.