Most full-service law firms would be happy to handle your appeal, especially after representing you at trial. Despite the continuity and familiarity offered by using trial court attorneys for your appeal, when the stakes are high, it often makes sense to work with attorneys that have spent their careers honing their mastery of appellate advocacy. Appellate attorneys use a different set of lawyering skills than do trial attorneys, and similarly, are versed in the different procedures used on appeal compared with trial court procedure. Plus, with new counsel comes fresh perspective, one grounded in a rich understanding of the types of arguments that tend to be successful on appeal, and with less of the bias and baggage generated by the often-protracted process of bringing a case to trial. In some cases, the distance that comes with not having handled the case for months or years of trial court battling allows appellate counsel to deliver the painful but useful advice that pursuing an appeal does not make sense.

Appellate advocacy is a different beast than trial court advocacy. While good trial lawyers are adept at ferreting out information through discovery, examining witnesses and making spontaneous tactical decisions in court, an appellate lawyer must be especially talented in persuasive writing. On appeal, the focus shifts from developing facts to mastering the trial court record, researching legal principles, considering subtle distinctions and trends within the relevant body of law, understanding underlying policy consideration that shape the law, and then distilling each of these into a concise, persuasively written brief. The appellate brief is the cornerstone of a successful appeal, unlike trial court briefs that lay out the law but frequently take a back seat to the compelling oral arguments made at trial. Appellate brief writing requires not a mere rehash of the arguments made at trial, but clearly crystallized legal arguments that precisely advocate the client’s position, and briefs written by seasoned appellate attorneys will reflect their experience.

Just as appellate attorneys bring the necessary skills to crafting this brief, they also bring the necessary perspective. Appellate courts must rely exclusively on the trial court record to provide background for their decisions, and frequently, the trial court record doesn’t tell the whole story. When an appellate attorney takes over a case for its appeal, he is able to take a fresh look at the case, within the same framework that the court will ultimately use. Working within the confines of the record and without the personal investment in how the case was or was not presented at trial, an appellate attorney may be in the best position to extract the most compelling arguments for his client’s position.

These same legal skills can be valuable in other circumstances, as well. Appellate attorneys can be consulted on summary judgment or other law-intensive briefing in trial courts, helping craft briefs with legal precision. Similarly, it can be productive to consult an appellate attorney for an “outside” opinion as to whether a claim is worth pursuing at trial.

The combination of unique and highly specialized skills, and the new perspective offered by an appellate attorney puts any party to an appeal in the best possible position to reach their desired outcome.

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