THE SKILLS THAT SUCCESSFUL APPEALS ATTORNEYS MUST POSSESS
Representing a client in a criminal appeal or civil appeal requires very detailed knowledge of the facts and the law, and sharp analyitical skills.
First, an appeals attorney must conscientiously gather all the documents generated at the trial level: court file, transcripts, exhibits, experts’ reports, and, in a criminal appeal, police reports and presentence investigations.
Second, an appeals attorney must very carefully read all of the documents, taking detailed notes. The lawyer must interview the client to learn facts about the case that are not found in the documents, especially facts about the prior attorney’s advice and promises. Often, the appeals lawyer must locate and interview witnesses, including expert witnesses, that the prior attorney did not seek out or interview. May times the prior attorney’s failure to present witnesses forms the basis for arguing a successful claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, in a criminal appeal.
Third, an appeals lawyer must possess a working body of knowledge of the law. This is the mental resource the lawyer uses to identify possible issues for appeal. This stage requires that the appellate attorney have a fluid and creative mind. The attorney must have the mental ability to solve problems by access to routes other than those usually travelled by the less creative. The appeals lawyer in a criminal appeal must not hesitate to raise claims that prior counsel was ineffective, if the record supports such an argument.
Fourth, an appeals attorney must know how to quickly and efficiently perform legal research to determine whether the law supports any of the possible issues for appeal.
Fifth, an appeals lawyer uses his or her powers of synthesis to combine the facts (including the new facts he or she has uncovered) and the law to weave a tight and compelling legal arugment for reversal on appeal. The attorney must be articulate both in writing the brief and in arguing orally before the appellate court.