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Civil, Family, and Administrative Appeals and Writs

Why Choose a Certified Appellate Specialist?

A Certified Appellate Specialist is identified by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization as an attorney who demonstrates skill in the area of appeals.

Certified Appellate Specialists have demonstrated to the State Bar of California that they have the unique skills and special knowledge required for appellate work. The State Bar of California adopted a program for certifying legal specialists in 1985 and began offering an appellate specialty certification in 1996. The purpose of the specialty program is to identify attorneys who demonstrate proficiency in the specialty fields and to encourage attorney competence. An application for certification consists of two parts: A written examination and a comprehensive written application demonstrating compliance with the remaining requirements for the particular specialty.

Appellate specialists have unique skills and knowledge required for effective representation in the Court of Appeal that differ from the special skills required to be a trial attorney.

Appellate cases are decided on the briefs. Many appellate courts prepare preliminary opinions before oral argument and rarely materially change the result after oral argument. Although a result can never be guaranteed, as an experienced appellate advocate, Ms. Conrad has the skills to draft briefs that have the best chance for winning results. Ms. Conrad has the experience to determine which issues have the highest probability of reversal on appeal, evaluate which cases would benefit from oral argument, and assess how to prepare for the challenge of effectively presenting a case to a panel of justices.

Appellate work requires many hours of penetrating examination of the issues and comprehensive research of every authority on both sides of the issue. “Appellate work is most assuredly not the recycling of trial level points and authorities,” but requires “rigorous original work in its own right.” (In re Marriage of Shaban (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 398, 408, 410.) Ms. Conrad has proven writing ability to prepare appellate briefs with in-depth research and persuasive analysis.

Certified appellate specialists also understand that the case facts and legal analysis must be presented to the court in an impartial manner. Ms. Conrad knows it is crucial to carefully choose how to frame the issues for the best result possible. Not all appealable issues should be argued on appeal. Which issues will obtain the best result on appeal is an important tactical decision that appellate specialists are trained to evaluate.

Appellate specialists understand how appellate courts operate.

Ms. Conrad has studied the issues before the appellate courts and how the appellate courts approach different issues in order to write the most persuasive briefs possible and effectively engage the appellate justices when reviewing the briefs and at oral argument. Ms. Conrad has studied which standard of review applies in each particular situation. She has also studied which errors constitute prejudicial error requiring reversal on appeal as opposed to harmless errors which lead to an affirmance on appeal. Ms. Conrad has experience identifying and presenting issues that have the highest chance of success on appeal.

Ms. Conrad has studied and understands appellate procedures and rules. Even eloquent briefs and arguments fail if the rules are ignored. A brilliant brief cannot save a late-filed appeal, an unappealable order, or a waived or moot issue.

Ms. Conrad has experience determining how best to designate the record on appeal in order to present a sufficient record to the court to support the briefing. Since appellate courts rely solely on the trial court record, an appeal will fail with an inadequate record, even where the trial court’s errors are obvious and the briefs are well-written.

Appellate specialists have the perspective needed to properly present the case to the reviewing court.

A California Court of Appeal has said that attorneys who prosecute their own appeals may have “tunnel vision” or may have become so “convinced of the merits of their cause” that they “lose objectivity,” thus trial attorneys “would be well served by consulting and taking the advice of disinterested members of the bar, schooled in appellate practice.” (Estate of Gilkison (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 1443, 1449-1450.) Ms. Conrad evaluates the issues as the reviewing courts see them -- based on the record. Like the justices, effective appellate lawyers like Ms. Conrad view the record and legal authorities with detachment.

On the other hand, effective trial lawyers have intimate knowledge of the facts and fought long and hard for their client's position. It is difficult to avoid viewing the record through that prism or with detachment after trial. Ms. Conrad can provide a new perspective and an impartial critical analysis that may identify evidentiary gaps or other flaws in order to evaluate the chances of success on appeal and present the most likely winning issues to the reviewing court.

Appellate specialists can assist both respondents and appellants.

Ms. Conrad's perspective is valuable for trial counsel whether their clients are appellants or respondents. Loss of objectivity can affect trial counsel whether they win or lose at trial. The same skills, knowledge, understanding and perspective that can win a reversal for an appellant can preserve a win for the respondent.

Appellate specialists can help trial counsel decide whether to file an appeal or seek a writ.

Ms. Conrad is available to help trial counsel and their clients decide whether to bring an appeal or seek an appellate writ. Ms. Conrad can provide a “second opinion” for clients. By viewing issues similarly to the way appellate courts see them, Ms. Conrad can provide an assessment of the chances of succeeding on appeal or of obtaining an appropriate writ from the Court of Appeal.

Appellate specialists can tell trial counsel when and how to appeal or seek a writ.

Ms. Conrad is available to advise trial counsel when and how to file an appeal or seek a writ. Ms. Conrad has the experience to determine which trial court decisions and orders are appealable and which can be reviewed only through a writ petition. Ms. Conrad also has the experience to determine the rules for perfecting an appeal or obtaining an appellate writ, including designating the record and the time limits for appealing or petitioning for a writ. If the record is improperly designated, the chances of success will be compromised. If time limits are unmet, appellate review will be lost. Thus, consultation as soon as an appeal is contemplated is crucial to obtaining the best result on appeal.

Appellate specialists can assist trial counsel who prefer to do their own appeals.

Ms. Conrad is available to help trial counsel "ghost write" their appeals. She is available to review the record, suggest the best issues to raise, and work with trial counsel in determining how the arguments should be presented, and to review and edit a draft brief to suggest improvements.

Appellate specialists can assist trial counsel in the trial courts to frame and preserve issues and ensure the best possible record on appeal.

Ms. Conrad is also available to work with trial counsel in the trial courts before, during and after trial and judgment. Ms. Conrad has assisted trial counsel in framing issues in the trial court, preserving the issues for possible appellate review, and providing the best possible record on appeal.  Ms. Conrad has assisted with demurrers and motions for summary judgment. After trial, Ms. Conrad has assisted trial counsel in determining how to secure critical statements of decision and judgments that can improve the loser’s chance of getting a reversal or the winner’s chance of obtaining an affirmance.  Ms. Conrad has assisted trial counsel with post-trial motions (like motions for a new trial or for reconsideration), which may improve the chances on appeal. These motions affect the timing for filing an appeal, thus appellate counsel should be contacted as soon as possible after an adverse motion or trial verdict.

Trial counsel and their clients would be well served by hiring Ms. Conrad for their appellate matters because, as a Certified Appellate Specialists, certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Conrad can provide the best opportunity for success on appeal.