Trial lawyers are very good at what they do. But an appeal is very different from a trial. When a case is appealed, a client often can obtain the best possible result by retaining an appellate lawyer. There are several reasons for this.
First, to be effective on appeal, a lawyer needs to use very different skills from those necessary for a successful trial. Gathering evidence, interviewing potential witnesses, cross-examining adverse witnesses, and making a passionate, often emotional, argument are the key skills of the trial lawyer.
On appeal, on the other hand, an attorney with strong writing, research, and logic skills can mean the difference between winning and losing. Experience working with and appearing before appellate judges again and again also builds the judgment and wisdom necessary to evaluate what issues, if any, are likely to lead to success on appeal.
It's similar to your medical care. Your family physician might be best for most of your ailments, but when it's time for surgery, you consult with a surgeon, not your family physician.
Second, unlike a trial, where lawyers present evidence for a judge or jury to consider, an appeal is decided solely from what the trial lawyer has already presented. This is called the record. An independent appellate lawyer is able to limit his or her review of the case to only what is contained in the record, just as the appellate court will do. The trial lawyer who took the depositions, interviewed the witnesses, and investigated the case before trial can easily lose track of what the trial court heard on the record versus what the trial lawyer knows really happened.
Finally, appellate lawyers typically have more intense experience with appellate litigation. After all, this is what we do every day. Even if a trial lawyer handles every appeal in his or her cases, the vast majority of cases are not appealed. Thus, a trial lawyer will not have nearly as many opportunities to practice before the appellate courts as an appellate lawyer who handles appeals for a number of trial lawyers.
We hope this explained what appellate lawyers do and why you may benefit from hiring appellate counsel. If you still have questions about the appellate process, check out our answers to these frequently asked questions. Or click on the box in the right-hand side bar to contact us directly.