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Appeals FAQ. The Q & A
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5. ​Shouldn’t my trial lawyer handle my appeal?

Like physicians, who are general practitioners and do not perform heart surgery, litigation today is also specialized by areas of law and by areas of litigation. The appellate process today is highly specialized and involves skills that are very different from trial level skills. Just as appellate lawyers are not experts at conducting discovery and arguing to juries, trial lawyers are not masters of all things are they are not experts at advancing appeals. 

Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Ruggero Aldisert, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, described the following about the regular trial lawyer handling appellant argument:
"Arguing a case before a court of appeals is not easy today. Judges know this and lawyers must understand this. It takes a special kind of litigator, and top-flight litigators are hard to come. . . . Most so-called litigators are deposition takers. They learn bad habits by taking and defending depositions in an unnecessarily confrontational atmosphere in which ad hominem attacks on opposing counsel are more the rule than the exception. But even when litigators get before a trial judge, their performance is more fact-specific than law-oriented. . . . often 'wing it' in arguing legal questions on the trial court level." (Ruggero Aldisert, Winning on Appeal at 33.)

A board certified appellate practitioner places great emphasis on the law, on appellate (not trial court) standards of reviewing legal error, and on powerful writing that needs to not just be good, but exceptional and extraordinarily concise and to the point. Where trial lawyers read ten cases to deduce the best, most accurate law, appellate lawyers read ten treatises to ensure that they are advancing the best, most accurate law before panels of appellate judges who write and construe that law. The appellate forum is a complete different, more legally complex forum.

A board certified appellate lawyer also has the specialized training to look at the case detached from the emotional pull involved in the trial process and to examine any potential legal error with fresh eyes and do so as an appellate expert. What may seem tremendously important in the trial court may not be a "case changer" on appeal and what may seem of little importance in the trial court may be reversible error on appeal.  Appellate experts conduct those dispassionate analyses of your cases.

For these reasons, independent appellate counsel to advance or defend an appeal is smarter and more cost-effective than remaining with only trial counsel.  That is why Easley Appellate is often contacted first by trial counsel and then by the respective clients to make the final decisions about retaining us to work with them on the appeals or to solely advance the appeals. They know that getting appellate counsel involved reduces risk and saves in the long run. It's that simple. 

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