April 08, 2014 Articles

Becoming an Appellate Lawyer: One Associate's Perspective

By Abbott Jones

How can a new lawyer break into the field of appellate advocacy? And once she has, how can she grow her practice? Here is some practical advice for becoming an appellate advocate, gleaned from my years as an appellate associate at a full-service law firm.

Write Exceptionally Well
The hallmark of a great appellate lawyer is her ability to convey complicated factual scenarios and legal arguments in a concise and persuasive way. Her writing ability, therefore, is one of her most important assets. Do whatever it takes to hone your writing skills. Attend CLEs and read articles focused on improving your writing. Read well-written judicial opinions and scholarly articles. Welcome editing and writing critiques from partners whose writing you admire—and improve your own writing by editing the work of others.

Once you gain a level of confidence about writing, write! Author articles about anything of interest to the appellate practitioner—U.S. Supreme Court cases, state appellate court decisions, circuit splits and trends, preservation of error tips, or changes in standards of review, just to name a few. Being a published author not only helps improve your writing and editing skills, it also raises your profile and helps build your brand.

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