Three Questions to Ask an Attorney Before You Hire Him or Her for an Appeal

Three Questions to Ask an Attorney Before You Hire Him or Her for an Appeal

Posted in Civil Appeals, Family Law Appeals

If you’re reading this, you have probably received a court order you don’t like, or the opposing party has decided to pursue an appeal of that order. Over the course of litigation, many clients have developed a trusting relationship with their trial attorney, and often, win or lose, want their trial attorney to handle the appeal. While historically trial attorneys also handled appeals, the appellate process, rules and procedure, and skill set required to draft persuasive, successful appellate briefs significantly differs in many ways from what is needed to be successful at trial and has led to the very specialized practice of appellate law. Below are a few suggested questions to ask an attorney before you decide to hire him or her for an appeal:

1) How Many Appeals Have You Handled?

The first question I would ask an attorney before considering using him or her for an appeal is about the attorney’s experience in all areas of the appellate process. While the number of appeals an attorney has handled, alone, does not guarantee appellate competence, if an attorney has handled a large number of appeals, he or she is more likely to be experienced in “speaking the language” of the appellate court  and navigating the complicated appellate procedure. When hiring an attorney, there is no substitute for experience.

2) Are you Board Certified by the Florida Bar as a Specialist?

The Florida Bar board certifies attorneys in 24 areas of the law. A Board Certified attorney is recognized as a specialist (expert) in a particular area of the law, and certification helps consumers identify these specialists. Only a small percentage of Florida attorneys are specialists, and in order to become a specialist, an attorney must, among other things, undergo peer review for ethics, character, and professionalism; pass an exam on his area of expertise; demonstrate substantial involvement in the area of law he or she seeks certification; and satisfy continuing education requirements.

When hiring an attorney to handle any legal issue, including an appeal, hiring a Board Certified attorney means you are getting an attorney who has taken extra steps to have his or her competence and experience evaluated and verified.

3) What percentage of your practice is devoted to appeals?

By way of an analogy: if you needed surgery, would you prefer a doctor who spends most of his or her days operating or one who hasn’t seen an operating room since medical school? It’s a ridiculous question but highlights that all doctors, like lawyers, are not created equal. By choosing an attorney with a large part of his or her practice focused on appeals, you have a better chance of the attorney being up to date on relevant rules and law, and he or she is more likely to have more experience in drafting persuasive, successful briefs

Final Thoughts

While these three questions should not be the end of your inquiry, they are a good starting place. Hiring an attorney is an important decision. Along with proven experience and expertise, you also need to find an attorney you are comfortable with and trust.