The Value of a Certified Appellate Specialist

Any member of the California State Bar can practice appellate law. But not every member can claim to be a Certified Appellate Specialist. This unique designation by the State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization denotes an attorney with demonstrated skill in appellate law. If you plan to retain an attorney for your California civil appeal, you deserve to know the value of your counsel. Gusdorff Law explains why you should consider hiring a Certified Appellate Specialist.

Certification Requirements

An attorney cannot simply say that he or she is a certified specialist in California appellate law. The Board of Law Specialization must issue this certification. And the requirements for doing so are rigorous. Only a small percentage of attorneys satisfy the standards necessary to demonstrate proficiency with appellate law.

To be certified, an attorney must:

  • Be an active member of the State Bar of California
  • Have practiced appellate law for at least 25 percent of the previous five years of practice
  • Pass a written examination in appellate law
  • Complete a specified amount of continuing education requirements in appellate law
  • Demonstrate a high level of skill in appellate law by meeting specific task and experience requirements
  • Have favorable professional evaluations by other attorneys and judges who are familiar with the attorney’s work

These criteria are difficult to meet, and for a reason. The State Bar wants the term “certified specialist” to have meaning beyond what the average attorney can claim. When a client retains a Certified Appellate Specialist, there’s assurance the attorney has been thoroughly vetted and qualified. Appellate law is demanding, so a client would want to know the lawyer is up to the task.

How a Certified Appellate Specialist Can Add Value to Your Civil Appeal

With these eligibility requirements in mind, consider the following ways in which a Certified Appellate Specialist can assist with your appeal:

Knowledge of Appellate Court Procedure and Rules

There’s no on-the-job training necessary in this area. The certified specialist is already thoroughly familiar with the sometimes byzantine and always demanding appellate court rules. The attorney understands the standards of review and how to properly identify and frame issues on appeal. Also, and perhaps most important, the specialist knows what Court of Appeal judges want to see to rule in a party’s favor.

The Objectivity Required to Present a Compelling Case

Trial court attorneys prosecuting their own appeals are prone to tunnel vision, less likely to view their cases with the objectivity required to successfully appeal. A specialist knows the value of sober yet informed interest in the case. Intimately familiar with the relevant facts, statutes, and case law, the specialist can present a strong argument on appeal.

The Ability to Guide Trial Counsel

Preparing for a successful civil appeal begins at the trial court level. The specialist understands this, and is therefore uniquely qualified to guide trial counsel with an eye on the appeal. One of the most important things trial counsel can do is facilitate the best possible record on appeal. To that end, a specialist helps the trial lawyer frame and preserve issues for appeal.

The Possession of an Unmatched Skill Set

While trial and appellate lawyers are both indispensable facets of any civil case, they are different. Contrast the various skills that trial lawyers and appellate specialists have. Trial law is focused on gathering evidence, preparing witnesses, and persuading the trier of fact. Much of this is done for strategic purposes of negotiating and, ideally, settling with opposing counsel. There’s an element of drama and brinkmanship inherent to the trial process.

Appellate law is more clinical, more detached (in a positive manner), and more analytical. It’s a battle of paper, not courtroom personalities and persuasion. Written argument is generally more paramount a concern than oral argument, although the appellate specialist is adroit at both. The icing on the cake is that the certified specialist has had time to refine and hone these and other relevant skills.

Put Our Seasoned Counsel to the Test

Gusdorff Law is prepared to meet the demands of your civil appeal. As a Certified Appellate Specialist, Janet Gusdorff has handled writs and appeals exclusively since 2006. She meets and exceeds the criteria required of specialists, and is ready to put her experience to work for you. Find out more about how we can enhance your California appeal. Call today.