Martin Siegel’s appellate practice focuses on:
Briefing and arguing complex civil appeals in federal and state courts,
Handling the full range of motions and preparing and arguing jury charges
in the trial courts, and
Analyzing legal issues before suit or as a consultant at any point during
With years of experience at a national defense firm, the Department of Justice and a large plaintiffs’ firm, Siegel combines broad perspective with individualized attention to each case. Larger appellate sections sometimes parcel out different sections of briefs, write by committee, and delegate much of the work to junior associates to accommodate greater volume. Siegel has the luxury to take fewer cases at a time, handle each in depth, and complete all analysis, research, writing and oral advocacy himself.
When a case reaches the court of appeals, the task facing counsel fundamentally changes. Victory no longer depends on persistence in discovery or marshalling evidence in the courtroom.
Rather, success turns on the thoroughness of the research, the quality of the analysis, the ability to organize and rigorously edit argument, and the efficiency and persuasiveness of the writing. The fresh perspective injected by new appellate counsel can also help. Surveys of judges routinely show that their decisions are almost always based on the briefing. Affiliating with counsel homed in on the specialized medium of the appellate brief can be invaluable.
While rarely decisive, oral argument retains its importance. Yet faced with the rare foray into appellate argument, trial lawyers sometimes fail to adapt to the new setting and fall back on habits more effective with juries or less formal trial courts.
Appellate judges seek forthright answers to their questions about potential weaknesses in the arguments, not dodges or appeals to emotion. A recent poll of Texas appellate judges reported in the Texas Bar Journal found: "By a margin of more than three to one, the justices prefer to hear argument from an appellate lawyer, provided that he or she knows the record well." Most appellate judges also believe trial counsel "regularly give emotional or fact-based 'jury arguments' instead of proper appellate arguments." When oral argument is allowed, having counsel familiar with its particular demands and rituals provides an important advantage.
The peculiarities of appellate practice are well known to large firms, most of which boast of sizeable appellate sections. The lawyers in these sections know the intricacies of appellate procedure and the tendencies of particular courts and individual judges. Smaller firms and solo practitioners without this in-house expertise are well served by bringing in experienced appellate counsel to level the playing field.
By the time the case reaches the court of appeals, the parameters have been set. Motions, objections and arguments not made to the trial court have generally been waived. Bringing in appellate counsel with an eye on a possible appeal and the ability to win the argument before the trial court can help avoid unnecessary error and saddle the other side with taking the appeal.
The highest caliber trial counsel sometimes tolerate a lower level of performance when it comes to addressing the legal issues. Pressed to do everything at once, trial counsel can be outgunned by larger adversaries when the terrain shifts from the facts to the law. Affiliating with appellate counsel in the trial court frees trial counsel to do what they do best.
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