Have you ever wondered why there aren’t that many movies or TV shows about appellate lawyers? Countless works of fiction dramatize the work of trial lawyers. The climaxes of these stories are almost always the same. Sometimes, the trial lawyer stumbles across a document or interviews a key witness, providing the “smoking gun” necessary for her client to win. Other times, the trial lawyer is shown standing in a courtroom, passionately arguing her client’s case to the jury.
While these fictional depictions obviously only scratch the surface of what a trial lawyer actually does, they reveal an important truth: At its core, a trial lawyer’s job is to uncover facts and present a narrative of the client’s case that is compelling to a jury of non-lawyers.
An appellate lawyer’s job is much different. On appeal, the facts have already been established. Unlike juries, appellate judges are almost never interested in hearing impassioned pleas about a client’s story. They usually only want to know whether the trial court committed an error of law.
So a successful appellate advocate must have a unique skill set and specialized knowledge. In addition to being an expert in legal research, writing, and advocacy, an appellate lawyer must be familiar with the unique rules applicable to appeals. Many of these rules create jurisdictional requirements, meaning that a failure to adhere to them is often fatal to a client’s case. Even while a case is still in the trial court, an attorney can make critical mistakes that will ultimately torpedo his client's appeal.
No one wants to turn on their TV to watch an appellate lawyer spend hours sitting at a desk honing a well-crafted brief. No one goes to the movies to see an extended colloquy with a judge about an obscure legal issue. But the ultimate success of your case on appeal may depend on finding an experienced appellate lawyer who is comfortable wading in those waters.
Here at The Mottley Law Firm, we are those kinds of lawyers. One of us has a specialized passion for appellate litigation cultivated as a former law clerk for a Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The other is a former winner of the prestigious William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition at the University of Virginia for his oral advocacy skills. Between us, we have successfully handled numerous appeals in both the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Here are some of the ways The Mottley Law Firm can help you:
- Consulting with counsel before and during trial to help ensure that a complete record is created and issues are properly preserved for appeal;
- Preparing and filing post-trial motions;
- Reviewing the trial court record and identifying possible issues for appellate review;
- Complying with the rules necessary to properly perfect an appeal;
- Preparing and filing appellate motions, including motions to dismiss procedurally defective appeals;
- Briefing and arguing appeals;
- Preparing and filing amicus briefs for non-parties interested in the outcome of a pending appeal;
- Preparing and filing petitions for rehearing.
From the beginning of a case, there are steps that should be taken to prepare for the possibility of an appeal. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Call The Mottley Law Firm at (804) 409-0876 to discuss your appellate litigation needs today.