by | Jun 28, 2019

This post is the second installment in a series about selecting an appellate attorney. You can read the first post here:

The first post in this series discussed how to obtain a meaningful cost estimate for your case. Of course, cost is irrelevant if it isn’t considered within the context of the attorney’s expertise. Here are some questions you should consider asking prospective appellate attorneys:

  1. How many appeals have you previously handled? I am consistently amazed by how infrequently I am asked this question. Over the past ten years in which I’ve practiced appellate law almost exclusively, I have literally handled hundreds of cases. Many attorneys have never handled one; others primarily handle trial-level cases, and have only handled appeals that develop from their trials. Wouldn’t you consider it relevant whether an attorney had handled 100 appeals or only 10?
  2. How did the attorney develop his or her expertise? Some attorneys have taken “Continuing Legal Education” (CLE) classes on the topic. Others were mentored by older attorneys. Some, like myself, clerked with a Judge in the appellate courts. I personally began as a clerk for the Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court.
  3. What law school did the attorney attend, and how well did they do? Not all law schools are created equal. Some attorneys in North Carolina, for example, attended the Charlotte School of Law – a for-profit school which was eventually closed, after earning a reputation for accepting pretty much any and all applicants. A simple google search can tell you how well-regarded that law school is. While the US News and World Report rankings are far from perfect, they do give you a general sense of whether the law school accepts top students or those with less impressive academic credentials. You can also ask the attorney how well they did at that school. If nothing else, they can tell you whether they graduated near the top of their class, in the middle, or near the bottom.
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