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Why Should My Client Hire an Appellate Attorney?

As civil or criminal litigation winds down in a Virginia circuit court or U.S. District Court, the jury’s or judge’s decision may prompt an appeal. Many clients desire their trial counsel to handle the appeal, either as appellant’s or appellee’s counsel. Yet trial counsel may not want to undertake that representation or be reluctant to do so. Upon expressing that view to the client, the client may well ask, “Why should I hire an appellate attorney?” Below, I describe three common reasons to hire appellate counsel.


  1. Trial counsel may be too busy with their trial practice. Conducting appellate litigation requires a considerable time investment and always is driven by “deadlines,” that is, procedural due dates for every aspect of the appeal. In light of their trial practice, a lawyer may not have time to add appellate litigation to their calendar. And, the law firm may not have a more junior lawyer to whom to assign the project.

  2. Trial counsel may be unfamiliar with appellate procedures. Each appellate court has its own set of procedural rules. From appellate court to court, those rules often are similar but where the rules differ can be a pitfall for unwary counsel. Some appellate procedural errors can be rectified; however, others can be fatal to a client’s cause. Busy trial counsel may not regularly conduct appellate litigation or may not have handled an appeal in years. In these situations hiring appellate counsel negates the risk of a procedural error.

  3. The professional relationship between trial counsel and the client may have frayed. In all truth, sometimes trial counsel would prefer to “finish up” their representation of a client. And of course, the client may want to end things out with the lawyer. If an appeal is appropriate or inevitable, the appellate attorney can start afresh with the client and relieve trial counsel of any further involvement in the litigation, or alternatively, limit that involvement to co-counsel or “on brief” status.


As an appellate attorney, I stand ready, willing and able to work with you and your clients to pursue or defend appellate litigation in Virginia and federal appeals courts. I am available to undertake the entirety of the appellate representation, or to represent the client along with trial counsel on a co-counsel or consultative basis.


Norman Thomas

NORMAN A. THOMAS, PLLC


Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. It may not reflect the current law in a reader's jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Norman A. Thomas, PLLC or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. Before taking any action a reader should seek appropriate professional advice from a licensed attorney on the particular facts and circumstances at issue in any court case or legal matter.

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