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Why Hire an Appellate Lawyer

Why Hire an Appellate Lawyer?

There is a temptation after trial to retain the same attorney to prosecute or defend the subsequent appeal. This may seem like common sense, but there are at least two important reasons to hire another attorney who has expertise in the appellate process:

  • The case will benefit from a fresh perspective.
  • The skills of the trial attorney are not identical to those required on appeal.

The case will benefit from a fresh perspective.

The trial attorney necessarily creates a "frame" for the case. This way of telling the story often becomes mentally "locked in." This can have the effect of blinding the attorney to other ways of looking at the issues in the case.

Whether the case was won or lost at the trial level, on appeal it is worthwhile to reconsider the "frame." This new perspective may lead to more fruitful approaches. As the California Court of Appeal has noted:

[T]rial attorneys who prosecute their own appeals . . . may have ‘tunnel vision.’ Having tried the case themselves, they become convinced of the merits of their cause. They may lose objectivity and would be well served by consulting and taking the advice of disinterested members of the bar, schooled in appellate practice.  Estate of Gilkison (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 1443, 1449-1450.

The skills of the trial attorney are not identical to those required on appeal.

A fine trial lawyer is an artist, but a master at oil painting may not do his best work as a sculptor. Different techniques and approaches come into play:

Trial lawyers seldom appear in appellate courts and are probably less effective there than are appellate lawyers. Trial lawyers are good at presenting concrete details in a straight-talking and compelling way that dramatically captures the attention of a jury in a trial court. . . . They are less skilled, however, at the subtle arguments that judges seem to appreciate in appeals
court . . . .  James M. Dabbs, Jr., Elizabeth Carriere Alford and Julie A. Fielden, "Trial Lawyers and Testosterone: Blue-Collar Talent in a White-Collar World," 28 Journal of Applied Social Psychology (1998) 84, 91.

Appellate work is most assuredly not the recycling of trial level points and authorities. . . . [B]ecause the orientation in appellate courts is on whether the trial court committed prejudicial error of law, the appellate practitioner is on occasion likely to stumble into areas implicating some of the great ideas of jurisprudence, with the concomitant need for additional research and analysis that takes a broader view of the relevant legal authorities. . . . The upshot of these considerations is that appellate practice entails rigorous original work in its own right. . . . Rather than being a rehash of trial level points and authorities, the appellate brief offers counsel probably their best opportunity to craft work of original, professional, and, on occasion, literary value. In re Marriage of Shaban (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 398, 408-410.

A good appellate attorney will collaborate with the lawyer who handled the matter previously, as well as with the client. Because of the continuing involvement of the trial attorney as needed, there should be no significant loss of knowledge or experience – only the addition of the particular skills needed to prevail on appeal.

Seek Experienced Legal Counsel

The Law Office of Paul Kujawsky has considerable experience arguing appellate cases and writing successful appellate briefs.  Mr. Kujawsky has the knowledge, persuasive writing ability, and creativity needed to provide you with the highest level of appellate representation.  If you are seeking assistance in an appellate matter, contact The Law Office of Paul Kujawsky in Los Angeles for a complimentary consultation today.    


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