For readers who have watched one of the dozen legal television shows that have been popular in recent years, they may get the impression that every case turns on some tiny but technically important detail. That is true in some cases. I have certainly argued that a trial court’s decision must be set aside because of something as seemingly insignificant as the time-stamp on a single document in a stack of a hundred, the lack of a signature on a contract or order, or even the use of the word “or” instead of “and.” Sometimes these arguments are quite viable. Other times, they are simply the best available. But more often than not, a winning case has a winning story behind it.
Judges are not robots, and they respond to a story of real unfairness just as anyone would. If you have just lost your case and have no idea exactly how it was unfair, but you have a feeling in your gut that the judge or jury reached the wrong conclusion, that is actually a good start to your appeal. In seeking out an attorney to pursue the appeal, find someone who is willing to hear your story and get a solid feeling for the people involved, not just the documents involved. You need an advocate who can humanize your story and translate your story into a compelling legal argument.
Appealing on the basis of a minute fact or technical detail can make for a great moment in a drama series, but the most important tool in appellate attorney’s toolkit is often a compelling story.