LAW PRACTICE • Jun. 28, 2005
Increasingly, Appellate Lawyers Advise at Trials, Laying Appeals Groundwork
By Lorelei Laird
Daily Journal Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES - As an appellate
attorney, Robert Wright should be seeing
the inside of a courtroom only about
three times a year.
But the partner at Encino appellate
boutique Horvitz & Levy said he finds
himself attending trials more often these
days. That's not, however, because he's
doing double duty as a trial attorney.
"I'm not there to try the case, and I
wouldn't know how to do it if anyone
asked me to," he said.
Instead, Wright and some of his
colleagues in the appellate bar
increasingly are called on to advise trial
attorneys on how to prepare cases for
appeal before they've even finished trial.
The practice doesn't make sense for
every case, attorneys say, but in suits that
likely will be appealed, both clients and
trial attorneys see value in having an
appellate specialist present to lay the
groundwork for a later appeal.
"I think that's something that our firm
has been doing more of in recent years,"
"And I think it might stem from the fact
that, as appellate counsel, sometimes we
run into an issue that initially looks great
on appeal but wasn't preserved at the
trial stage," he said. "We often tell
clients, 'It would be wonderful if you
could [have] involved that [issue]
At the same time, Wright said, the trial
attorney has a full-time job to do:
presenting the facts of the case in a way
that will convince the jury.
"On a macro level, I think what we
provide is someone in the courtroom
who's thinking about how this case will
look to the Court of Appeal," Wright said.
Trial attorney Lawrence P. Riff,
managing partner of the Los Angeles
office of Steptoe & Johnson and a toxic
torts defense expert, agreed.
"An appeal is only going to be as good
as the record that's developed in the trial
court," Riff said. "If you think you're
going up on appeal on some key issue, it
makes good sense to get with your
appellate counsel in advance to mak