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Are you considering appealing an unfavorable verdict in a criminal case, civil case, or family law matter? You still have the option to get justice—but you need to be proactive. Regardless of whether you are preparing an appeal in a state court or a federal court, it is absolutely crucial that you have an appellate law specialist on your side. A trial is a lot different than an appeal. Appellate lawyers and trial lawyers each have their own role to play in our legal system. Within this blog post, you will find an explanation of what makes an appellate lawyer unique from a trial lawyer. 

Understanding the Difference Between Trial Courts and Appellate Courts

To start, it is crucial that you know how trial courts and appellate courts operate. They are not the same thing. Indeed, trial courts and appellate courts serve distinct roles in the judicial system. These courts each have their own unique functions and purposes. A trial court—which may also be referred to as a lower court—is responsible for hearing and deciding cases for the first time. They consider evidence, witness testimonies, and arguments from both parties to reach a decision. 

Appellate courts are different. As explained by Georgetown University, appellate law reviews the decisions made by trial courts to ensure they have been legally sound and fair. An appeal is not focused on setting the facts. Instead, the attention is focused on procedural fairness and whether or not the trial court correctly interpreted/applied the law. As trial courts and appellate courts have different roles, the attorneys that practice within them have different training, skills, knowledge, experience, and objectives. 

Three Key Differences Between an Appellate Attorney and a Trial Attorney

1. An Appellate Lawyer Has Different Experience

A trial attorney is a lawyer who primarily focuses on representing clients during the initial court proceedings (the trial portion of the case. Among other things, a trial attorney is responsible for conducting investigations, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and presenting their clients’ cases before a judge or jury. A great trial lawyer is skilled in the art of advocacy, utilizing persuasive skills and honing tactics to argue on their clients’ behalf.

On the other hand, an appellate attorney represents clients who wish to challenge the outcome of their case in a higher court. Notably, they do not deal with the fact-finding aspect of the case but instead, focus on legal arguments and issues arising from the lower court’s decision. Appellate attorneys have experience in drafting appellate briefs and presenting oral arguments before appellate judges. It requires a different set of skills. 

2. An Appellate Lawyer Has Unique Legal and Procedural Knowledge

As a general rule, trial attorneys possess deep knowledge of the rules of evidence and civil or criminal procedure. It is their job to present their clients’ cases within the bounds of these rules and navigate the trial process effectively. On the other hand, an appellate attorney has different legal and procedural knowledge. A top appellate attorney must be familiar with the rules of appellate procedure and the specific jurisdiction’s standards of review. An appellate lawyer’s legal expertise lies in identifying legal errors made by the lower court, analyzing complex legal issues, and crafting compelling legal arguments to persuade an appellate to overturn/modify a decision. 

3. An Appellate Lawyer Has a Different Objective

Finally, trial lawyers and appellate lawyers have different objectives. The primary goal of a trial attorney is to achieve a favorable outcome for their client in the lower court, either through a settlement or a favorable verdict. They strive to present the best possible case and persuade the judge or jury to rule in their client’s favor.

In contrast, an appellate attorney’s objective is distinct: to convince a higher court that the lower court’s decision was legally incorrect or unjust. In effect, this means that an appellate attorney must be laser-focused on identifying errors in the lower court’s ruling and arguing that these errors warrant reversal or modification of the decision.

Have Questions About Appellate Law? You Need a Skilled Specialist On Your Side

At The Appellate Law Firm, our top appellate law attorneys go above and beyond to protect the best guidance and support to clients.  We specialize in appellate law. Contact our legal team to arrange your confidential consultation. Our appellate lawyers handle criminal and civil appeals in Washington, California, Oregon, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. 

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Do you or a loved one have a trial case that you wish to appeal? If so, call the office or contact us at The Appellate Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation of your case and learn more about how to increase your chances of success with your appellate case.

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