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My First Appeal to Reason

At a recent dinner party, I was talking to a seasoned trial attorney. When I told him that I was an appellate attorney, he became quite animated. “I don’t know anything about appeals!” He announced with unmistakable pride. “I just win my cases and don’t worry about appeals.”

I could not help but look at him in awe. Yes, I was in awe of his . . . arrogance. Not only was my role in the appellate process ignored – I was unnecessary! – but I was concerned his arrogance might eventually cause his clients to lose their appeals.

His attitude, although taken to an extreme, is not that unusual. I have received calls from trial attorneys asking about the procedures involved in the appellate process. Their common refrain is “I don’t handle appeals. It’s not my area.” While appellate procedure is a specialized area of law and procedure (although one can still find trial attorneys handling their own appeals), it often overlaps into the realm of the trial attorney.

If a client came to you to discuss a potential personal injury claim, you would certainly advise them of the applicable statute of limitations and the final date a complaint could be filed. In my opinion, the same principle applies at the end of the case. Once a judgment has been entered (or even before), you need to advise the client in writing about the deadline for filing an appeal. At a minimum, trial attorneys must understand enough about the appellate process to know the deadlines for filing a notice of appeal. And if they ignore what happens after the judgment is rendered, they do so at their peril.

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