Trial and Appeal – Different Worlds
Trial lawyers specialize in persuading juries and judges to accept their clients’ versions of the facts. Argument – and especially written argument – about legal issues usually takes second place to the presentation of compelling evidence.
When the trial court enters judgment, everything changes. The case then goes to a panel of appellate judges – for whom the trial court’s conclusion about the facts is usually the only one that matters – and the field of battle shifts to whether the trial court applied the law correctly. The appellate court makes that decision on a written record of the trial proceedings, the strength of a couple of briefs and, at most, one short oral argument – sometimes none.
Appellate Lawyers’ Special Skills
A fresh perspective. An appellate lawyer evaluates the case objectively based on these new realities, helping parties see the case the way the appellate court is likely to see it. Appellate counsel focuses on legal and procedural issues because appellate courts do; factual findings will almost never be reexamined. The key issues on appeal often differ from those that predominated at trial.
A deep understanding of the appellate process. Experienced appellate lawyers know how reviewing courts work, and they guide clients (and trial counsel) through that new terrain. The focus shifts away from trial-level proof issues, and toward a new framework: Is the judgment appealable? What standards of review will the court apply and how do those standards affect the strength of the client’s potential arguments? Were any trial court errors preserved for appeal? Which issues are important and winnable, and which will only crowd the brief? Could this case shape the law, and if so, how?
Exceptional written advocacy. A trial-court team has many chances to explain complex legal and factual issues, in person and in writing. An appeal is different. Parties get only one or two chances – primarily through written advocacy – to educate generalist appellate judges about the relevant facts and law, and the strength of their position. Appellate counsel must streamline specialized concepts, eliminate surplus, and speak the language appellate courts understand.
A different kind of oral advocacy. Appellate judges often comment that trial lawyers who appear before them can’t shake their “jury” presentation style. Appellate lawyers understand the totally different approach required in this new forum – where the core questions are legal, not factual, and 10-30 minutes of in-person, oral advocacy per side is the norm.
Appellate Courts Rely On Appellate Lawyers
Because the appellate courts know that experienced appellate practitioners speak their language and understand their decision-making process, such lawyers can earn the courts’ trust in a way that trial counsel rarely can. As one California appellate court said:
- [T]rial attorneys who prosecute their own appeals, such as appellant, may have “tunnel vision.” Having tried the case themselves, they become convinced of the merits of their cause. They may lose objectivity and would be well served by consulting and taking the advice of disinterested members of the bar, schooled in appellate practice. We suspect that had appellant done so they would have advised him not to pursue this appeal.(Estate of Gilkison (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 1443, 1449-50.)
Another court emphasized that “[a]ppellate work is most assuredly not the recycling of trial level points and authorities”:
- [A]ppellate practice entails rigorous original work in its own right. The [lawyer] who takes trial level points and authorities and, without reconsideration or additional research, merely shovels them in to an appellate brief, is producing a substandard product.(In re Marriage of Shaban (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 398, 408-410.)
Appellate courts are acutely conscious of the differences between trial and appellate lawyers. Litigants should be, too.
It’s Never Too Early To Call GMSR
Because of their special knowledge of what happens to cases on appeal, appellate lawyers can help protect and advise litigants while the case is still in the trial court. As soon as it’s clear that one side or the other will take a case up on appeal, it’s time to bring in appellate counsel to help the trial team position the case as favorably as possible. For over 30 years, clients have sought that expert help from GMSR.
Visit us at www.gmsr.com to learn more.
Top Listed City Awards
- Top Listed in Los Angeles in Appellate Practice with 8 lawyers
- Cedars Sinai Health Services
- Deloitte LLP
- Farmers Insurance Group
- Fire Insurance Exchange
- HLC Properties, Inc.
- League of California Cities
- The City of Riverside
- The County of Los Angeles
- Truck Insurance Exchange
About Our Clients
City of Beaumont
City of Beverly Hills
City of El Monte
City of Huntington Beach
City of Los Angeles
City of Madera
City of Moreno Valley
City of Oceanside
City of Riverside
City of Westminster
Los Angeles County
Los Angeles County Office of Education
San Bernardino County
Santa Barbara County
The Regents of the University of California
Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London
Chicago Title Company
Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company Farmers Group, Inc.
Farmers Insurance Exchange
Fremont General Insurance Company
Great American Specialty Underwriters
Old Republic Title Insurance Company
One Beacon Professional Insurance
SCPIE Indemnity Co.
St. Paul Insurance Company
Truck Insurance Exchange
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Inland Empire Health Plan
Loma Linda University Medical Center
PacifiCare of California, Inc.
StarCare Medical Group, Inc.
Tenet Healthcare Corp.
The Doctors Company
Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund
The Los Angeles Times
William Morris Endeavor
CB Richard Ellis International
City National Bank
Con Agra Foods
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
Deloitte & Touche LLP
General Growth Properties
National Football League
Rosenfeld Meyer & Susman
Service Corporation International
Southern California Edison
Firm Practice Areas
- Administrative / Regulatory Law
- Appellate Practice
- Bet-the-Company Litigation
- Civil Rights Law
- Commercial Litigation
- Family Law
- Government Contracts
- Health Care Law
- Insurance Law
- Real Estate Law