For Attorneys

Why refer out an appeal?

Trial lawyers have busy schedules. Court appearances, depositions, client meetings, travel — the day-to-day life of a trial lawyer doesn’t leave much time for the thoughtful reflection, exhaustive research, and extensive writing that an appeal requires. You know you could research and write an appellate brief, the question is: when? And if not you, who? You worked hard at trial, do you really want the fate of your case to rest on the research skills of an inexperienced associate?

Some trial lawyers routinely refer out their cases to appellate attorneys. Others are reluctant to do so, perhaps believing that their knowledge of the case makes them the best lawyer to brief and argue the appeal.

Although the trial lawyer may know the case well, he or she may not be the best person to handle the appeal. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you decide to take on an appeal:

When was the last time you represented a client on appeal?

Although many civil cases are commenced, the majority of them settle or are disposed of on motions. Only a small percentage go to trial. A trial lawyer with a full case load may only try a handful of cases in a year. Of the cases that are tried, few are appealed.

Trial lawyers who handle an appeal once every few years may not be as well versed in appellate procedure as someone who works on appeals every day. The appellate rules are always changing. There are also many issues unique to appeals – issues involving appellate jurisdiction, standard of review, and waiver, for example. Experienced appellate lawyers can spot those issues and know how to address them in an appellate brief.

How do you feel about researching and writing an appellate brief?

The best appellate briefs are written by lawyers who enjoy research and writing. A lawyer who enjoys the process of crafting a thoughtful and persuasive written argument is likely to do a better job than someone who doesn’t. Does the thought of spending hours doing legal research — followed by even more hours sitting at your computer writing a brief — give you a headache? If it does, maybe you should consider referring the appeal to someone who actually enjoys researching and writing appellate briefs.

Do you have sufficient time to write an appellate brief?

Appellate representation is time-intensive. It takes focus and concentration to research and write a persuasive appellate brief.  Crafting a first-rate written argument is part skill, part art.  It must be easy to read and easy to understand. A good brief can’t be rushed. If you are a busy trial lawyer, you may not be able to carve out the blocks of time necessary to research and write a compelling brief.

Can you be objective about the likelihood of success on appeal?

An appellate lawyer can bring a fresh perspective to a case. He or she is less vested in what happened at trial and may be better able to evaluate objectively the merits of an appeal.

Why Appellate Law Group?

At Appellate Law Group, appeals are what we do all day, every day. We understand the nuances of appellate practice and procedure, including identifying appealable orders, filing motions to quash, identifying waiver of appellate issues, and determining the applicable standard and scope of review. We have the knowledge, skill, and experience to represent your client effectively on appeal.

Just last year, we represented the prevailing party in an interlocutory appeal to the Superior Court in a criminal case involving the discovery of the accuser’s mental health records. We are currently representing clients in appeals pending in the Pennsylvania Superior Court and Commonwealth Court.

We have worked with attorneys in large firms, and with sole practitioners. In some instances, we will handle all aspects of the appeal.  In other cases, we will assist the trial lawyer with identifying appealable issues and structuring the brief. Our goal is to work with you to present your case in a way that will increase your chance of winning on appeal.


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