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Getting a Lawyer for Your Appeal

If you've already been through a trial with your attorney, chances are you've developed a good relationship and may want him or her to handle the next phase of your case. However, that may not be the right option for you or your attorney.

Why Should I Get Two Different Lawyers?

Trial lawyers and appellate lawyers often have vastly different skill sets. Trials require the skills of a lawyer who has experience in the courtroom and making a strong case to jurors. Trial lawyers need to be very conscious of multiple, rapidly approaching deadlines, and must also be extremely careful in their negotiations with opposing counsel. Because they are trying to persuade a defendant's peers rather than fellow lawyers, they also must be skilled in presenting facts and in breaking down the law into understandable terms.

By contrast, appeals often involve large amounts of writing, legal research, and arguing often dense legal doctrines before a judge or a panel of judges. Appellate lawyers are accustomed to having enough time to research legal issues in depth and write long briefs with intricate arguments. They come to the court room extremely well prepared and become experts on the cases before them and the applicable laws. An oral argument, in which an appellate attorney faces a barrage of questions from appellate judges, requires a very different skill set.

After all, when arguing appeals, attorneys must be able to parry often disconnected questions from jurists while also couching their arguments within the broader context of the law.

Generally, lawyers find that they can best serve their clients when they focus on either their trial skills or their appellate skills, but not both at the same time. So if your case is past the trial phase and is headed to appellate court, it may be in your best interests to find a new attorney who specializes in appellate practice.

Whatever You Decide, Be Clear

Because trial and appellate work are two different types of legal practice, the lawyer who represented you at the trial will not automatically file or handle your appeal. You must ask your lawyer to do so, or find another attorney who will. If you want to appeal your conviction, be sure to specifically and clearly inform your attorney of that fact.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently determined that an attorney's failure to file a notice of appeal does not necessarily constitute ineffective assistance of counsel as long as the defendant did not clearly convey his or her wishes on the subject. In many states, the state public defender (or another assigned counsel) generally will handle the appeal for those unable to pay.

For more information, see FindLaw's resources concerning How to Hire a Lawyer and Court Procedure.

Get Your Appellate Case Reviewed for Free

If you are thinking of appealing your criminal case, you will surely want a strong appellate attorney in your corner. There is quite a bit of legal analysis and writing that can go into an appeal, not to mention important filing deadlines and possible court appearances. You can learn more today by contacting a criminal defense attorney in your area for a free case analysis.

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