Getting a Lawyer for an Appeal

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

If you've already been through a trial with your defense attorney, chances are you've developed a good relationship and may want them to handle the next phase of your case. However, that may not be the right option for you or your attorney. The truth is, getting a different lawyer for an appeal is the smart way to go; the process and skills required are different than those pertaining to trial-level proceedings.

The following is an overview of why getting a lawyer for an appeal -- a different lawyer -- makes sense.

Why Should I Get a Different Lawyer for an Appeal?

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're trying to persuade a defendant's peers rather than fellow lawyers, they also must be skilled in presenting facts and breaking the law down into understandable terms.

By contrast, appeals often involve large amounts of writing, legal research, and arguing often-dense legal doctrines before a judge or 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 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 won't 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 determined that an attorney's failure to file a notice of appeal doesn't necessarily constitute ineffective assistance of counsel as long as the defendant didn't clearly convey their wishes on the subject. In many states, the state public defender (or other assigned counsel) generally will handle the appeal for those unable to pay.

Get Professional Legal Help With Your Appellate Case

If you're thinking of appealing your criminal case, you'll surely want a strong appellate attorney in your corner. There's 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.

Next Steps

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