Why should you hire an appellate attorney? You may be happy with your trial counsel, having already worked and developed a good relationship with your trial counsel for months or perhaps years. Plus, your trial counsel already knows the facts of your case. There are, however, specific advantages to hiring appellate counsel.
First, experienced appellate counsel possess excellent research, writing, and thinking skills. These skills are critical for an appellate brief because, unlike a trial that consists of oral arguments to the judge and perhaps a jury, an appeal is decided almost entirely on the written brief. For instance, and as described in a prior article, if the Massachusetts Appeals Court assigns the appeal to the “B” track, the court decides the case entirely on the written brief without any oral argument. And, if the case is assigned to the “A” track (with an oral argument), the court still relies heavily upon the written brief, as the judges read the briefs before oral argument, ask questions from the briefs, and rely upon the briefs when drafting the decision.
Second, appellate counsel provides a “fresh set of eyes” to the case. We are able to review the case and transcripts objectively, seeing issues that trial counsel might have overlooked.
Third, appellate counsel understands how to review the record with an eye towards identifying and arguing trial errors on appeal. Skilled appellate counsel knows the standards of review that the appellate court applies to legal arguments and how best to present the strongest appellate arguments based upon the trial errors and within the appellate standards of review.
Overall, appellate advocacy is a specialized area of practice that requires skilled and experienced appellate counsel. We often work with trial counsel to learn a case, and then apply our well-honed skills to prepare the appellate brief.