There are attorneys who intermittently do appeals and then there are appellate attorneys. The difference is in the attorneys experience and skill set. Appellate practice requires certain abilities and talent that trial lawyers may not possess. This blog discusses the attributes of a successful appellate court attorney in Indiana.
First, and probably most importantly, an appellate court attorney should have exceptional language skills. They must be able to speak and write persuasively and with authority, using their talent to reframe issues, tell a client’s story in a compelling way, and use the language of the law to convince the court there is only one path of logic it can possibly follow (American Bar Association). And that is the path ending in their client’s desired outcome. During oral arguments, an appellate attorney needs to be able to answer the court’s questions quickly and precisely while sometimes being interrupted with an inquiry and the clock is counting down on their time to speak.
Successful appellate court attorneys in Indiana must also be organized. If you are searching for an appellate attorney, you will be able to tell how organized, or disorganized, each one is the moment you step into their office. That is not to say a messy desk means a lack of organizational skills, there are organized messes, however, stacks of files on the chairs, sofa, and floor, an inability to locate a pen or pad of paper in a reasonable amount of time, and countless sticky notes scattered throughout the office, could be a sign of a disorganized person. Reading transcripts of testimony, sorting through pleadings, reviewing documentary evidence for appealable error, and drafting a convincing and thorough brief require a certain level of organizational skill. An hour spent searching for the photograph or page of the transcript that was just in the attorneys hands five minutes ago is an hour not only wasted, but billed to the client when no actual work was being done. And a disorganized brief may not only be so difficult to follow that the court cannot see the logic in the argument, but if it is not organized exactly as described in the rules of appellate procedure, it will very likely be rejected and sent back for the appropriate changes to be made (Ind. App. Pro. R. 44).
The entire appellate process requires an analytical mind able to focus on the legal issues and select the one(s) that gives the client the best chance of winning. In any trial or hearing lasting more than half a day, there can be a large number of errors made, and a successful appellate attorney needs to be able to sort out the insignificant, or harmless, errors from the fundamental ones that substantially effected the outcome of the case. Submitting a brief which contains more than two or three issues can cause the court to be skeptical, as it could appear there were no legitimate issues to be raised. Once the issues have been narrowed down, statutes, rules, and case law have to be analyzed to determine how each applies, or does not apply, and what logic has been used by the court in previous opinions with facts similar to the facts in the client’s case.
Objectiveness and honesty are also attributes of a successful appellate court attorney. There may not be an appealable issue in every case, and some cases with an appealable issue simply are not worth appealing. The ability to see both sides of the issues and give the client an honest opinion of the likelihood of winning vs. the expense is important in appellate work. Additionally, objectiveness allowing an attorney to see both sides of an issue can help them anticipate the other parties arguments and address them in the brief before they have even been made.
Finally, a successful appellate attorney in Indiana should be detail oriented. Cases can be won or lost as a result of the details. Reading hundreds of pages of transcripts, examining every piece of evidence, and reviewing all pleadings and orders to determine exactly what happened in the trial court requires an eye for detail. Missing one important fact can be detrimental to the case.
If you are considering filing an appeal in Indiana or are already involved in one and looking for an experienced appellate attorney, the lawyers at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help fight for you. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.