Key Factors to Consider When Choosing an Appellate Lawyer

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing an Appellate Lawyer

Selecting the right appellate lawyer to handle your appeal can significantly impact the course and outcome of your case. Unlike trial lawyers, appellate lawyers focus on the legal arguments and writing necessary to persuade judges rather than juries. This specialty necessitates unique skills and qualities. Here are some essential factors to consider when choosing your appellate lawyer.

Specializes in Appellate Law

First and foremost, you need an attorney who is well-versed in appellate law. This area of law involves different rules, practices, and strategies than those used at trial. Appellate lawyers must be able to read and analyze complex legal issues and then communicate those issues effectively in writing. Be sure to find an attorney who has significant experience with appeals and a deep understanding of appellate law.

Past Appellate Success

It’s important to consider an attorney’s track record. Has the attorney argued successfully before appellate courts? Do they have examples of past cases similar to yours? While past success doesn’t guarantee future results, it does indicate the attorney’s level of experience and skill in handling appellate matters.

However, it’s crucial to take into account the attorney’s typical role in appellate cases when evaluating their success record. Are they usually representing the appellant or the appellee? The appellant, the party initiating the appeal, often faces a steeper uphill climb than the appellee, the party responding to the appeal. Consequently, success rates can differ significantly depending on the attorney’s usual role. For instance, an appellate lawyer frequently representing appellants who boasts a success rate around 10% may actually be demonstrating significant skill given the uphill battle appellants often face.

On the other hand, an attorney accustomed to representing appellees should ideally present a higher success rate, often around 80% or more, reflecting the inherently advantageous position of the appellee in appellate proceedings. Hence, understanding the context of these success rates is pivotal in your decision-making process.

Strong Research and Writing Skills

The appeals process relies heavily on written briefs, which argue why the trial court’s decision should be upheld or overturned. As such, a good appellate lawyer must have exceptional legal research and writing skills. They must be able to identify errors in the trial record, find relevant case law to support your appeal, and then persuasively present these arguments in writing. Ask potential attorneys about their approach to research and writing to assess their proficiency in this area.

Understanding the Standards of Review

Appellate courts do not retry cases; instead, they review the decisions of lower courts for legal errors. The standard of review applied depends on the type of issue appealed. Common standards include de novo, clearly erroneous, and abuse of discretion. Your lawyer should be familiar with these standards of review and how to argue within them for the best possible outcome.

Excellent Oral Argument Skills

While not every case will be selected for oral argument, your attorney should be prepared to argue your case before the judges, if necessary. This requires a different set of skills than arguing before a jury. Your attorney must be able to think on their feet, respond to judges’ questions, and persuasively argue your case in a limited amount of time.


Choosing an appellate lawyer is a significant decision. The right attorney can effectively navigate the appeals process and provide the best chance for a successful outcome. Consider factors such as their concentration in appellate law, past appellate success, writing and research skills, understanding of the standards of review, and oral argument skills. Remember, an initial consultation can provide valuable insight into whether an attorney is the right fit for your case.

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Important Client Advisory:

Due to our high demand and dedication to existing clients, we are accepting new cases for court representation only in appeals within Maryland's appellate courts. For all other legal matters, although we are not entering appearances or attending court hearings, our team is available to offer robust legal consulting services including:

  • Legal Document Preparation: Drafting documents for clients to sign and file, ensuring compliance and precision.
  • Strategic Legal Advice: Offering guidance via phone or email to navigate complex legal challenges.
  • Court Argument Scripts: Crafting detailed scripts for effective opening and closing arguments.

For court appearances in non-appellate matters, we recommend engaging local counsel to ensure the best possible representation and support.