Why Hire an Appellate Attorney?

Court of appeals sign - hire an appeals attorney concept

If you lost a lawsuit at trial, you may have the option to appeal. However, it’s important to understand that litigating a case and appealing one are two very different processes. Not only must an attorney have specific knowledge of the appellate process in order for an appeal to be successful — but preparing and arguing an appeal requires a very different skill set than trial work. This is why it is crucial to hire an appellate attorney who focuses solely on appellate work for your appeal.

What is an Appeal?

An appeal is the process by which a case is reviewed by a higher court. Appeals can be filed in nearly any type of case that has been litigated, including civil lawsuits, commercial matters, family law cases, and criminal cases. However, there is no automatic relief granted on appeal — you must demonstrate that there was a legal error or procedural mistake made by the lower court that affected the outcome of the trial.

An appeal is not a new trial. New evidence and new witnesses are not considered on appeal. Instead, the higher court will determine whether an error occurred at the trial level which would warrant the decision being reversed.

What Does an Appellate Attorney Do?

By hiring an appeals attorney, you are retaining counsel who specifically prepares and argues cases at the appellate level. An attorney who focuses on appellate work does not litigate at the trial level, but instead reviews the record to analyze why a decision made by the lower court was an error of law. They can only use the facts and evidence that were presented to the judge or jury below. It is the appeal attorney’s job to demonstrate to the appellate court which legal issues or procedural matters went wrong during litigation at the trial court.

Part of an appellate attorney’s job is to prepare and file an appellate brief. This is the party’s written argument that gets filed with the appellate court and reviewed by the appellate judges. Some cases are decided based upon the brief alone, while others have oral argument heard by the appellate court as well In cases where oral argument is scheduled, both sides — represented through their appellate attorneys — will have a limited amount of time to present their position persuasively and concisely to the court.

Why is it Important to Hire an Appellate Attorney?

No matter how skilled a trial lawyer might be at preparing and arguing a case to a jury, an appeal is a completely different process involving appeal judges, not juries. Appellate work is specialized. Effective appellate advocacy is based on being able to respond to nuanced questions posed by a panel of appellate judges. Rather than forming emotional arguments that might persuade a jury, appellate attorneys must anticipate what legal questions appellate judges may pose – and structure their argument accordingly.

There are numerous advantages to hiring an appeals attorney, instead of having the attorney who handled your case at trial take it to the appellate court. Importantly, an appellate attorney will:

  • Have a new and fresh perspective on the case
  • Understand the specific rules and procedures that apply to appeals
  • Know how to emphasize the record in the case
  • Understand how to present a solid argument to the appellate judges
  • Have the skill and knowledge necessary to prepare an appellate brief

An appellate attorney evaluates a case objectively and thoroughly. Regardless of how experienced or knowledgeable a trial attorney may be, his or her level of involvement in preparing the case for trial can create tunnel vision. Since appellate attorneys look at a case with new eyes, they are in a similar position as the appellate judges who will be deciding the appeal.

A skillful appellate attorney will know how to identify appealable issues early in a case. When you hire an appellate attorney, the attorney can also work with trial counsel to ensure that legal arguments are not waived by failing to raise objections. In addition to preserving the record for appeal, they will know the applicable appellate timelines and make sure they are observed.

Contact a Knowledgeable Appellate Attorney

If there was a mistake of law or a procedural error made in your case at the trial level, you may be entitled to file an appeal. It is important that you hire the right appellate attorney to help you through the process. The experienced appellate attorneys at Hegge & Confusione, LLC know how to meticulously craft a written brief that raises the important errors that occurred in your case and successfully argue them before the appellate court. Contact us today for an assessment of your case.