When should a divorce attorney hire an appellate lawyer?

| Aug 5, 2020 | Appeals |

Good attorneys know when they have an ethical and professional responsibility to enlist the help of another attorney for a client. There is a reason that competency is the very first requirement addressed in the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. Appellate work is often a specialized practice for attorneys. It takes time, knowledge of a completely separate set of court rules and often a unique set of skills that some attorneys either don’t have or simply don’t have the time to learn. There are several reasons you may choose to refer out an appellate case, including:

Lack of experience with the appellate court system

To be a truly great attorney for your clients, you must focus your practice to hone particular skills. Once your client’s needs go beyond those skills, the best thing you can do for your client is either bring in co-counsel or refer the case to another firm. The appellate system has its own rules and requires unique talents for brief writing and oral arguments. The stakes are often high, and your client will thank you for referring you to an experienced attorney in this area.

Lack of time or resources to invest in an appellate case

Your regular practice may already be so busy that you simply do not have the time or resources to invest in an appeal. Appeals often involve questions of law that require extensive research and preparation. Or perhaps you like the idea of someday practicing at the appellate level, but don’t have the resources to do so right now. Either way, appellate work simply may not fit into your current practice.

Lack of interest in doing appellate work

Not all family law attorneys enjoy writing long briefs and standing for oral arguments. Many of you would prefer to be working with clients, helping them with the day-to-day family law issues you enjoy. When your client faces a judgment or order you know is legally wrong, you are more than happy to have someone else take the case to the next level.

A case study: In re Marriage of Altman, 2016 IL App (1st) 143076

In re Marriage of Altman is an example of how an appellate team can help resolve a legal matter that affected the divorce attorney personally. In that case, the lower court had ordered disgorgement of attorney fees the lawyer had already been paid as being available funds for allocation in the divorce. Our team argued that attorney fees that have already been earned and paid are not available funds in a divorce. The appellate court agreed, and a year later, the Illinois Supreme Court used the Altman case as precedent for making a similar finding in In re Marriage of Goesel, 2017 IL 122046.

There are many reasons to refer your family law appeal to an appellate lawyer. Whether you do not have the time, resources or inclination to handle the case yourself, your client will appreciate you looking out for their best interest at this important juncture in their case.