Trial lawyers and appellate lawyers often have vastly different skill sets. Trials require the skills of a lawyer who has experience in the courtroom and working before juries. Trial lawyers need to be very conscious of multiple, rapidly approaching deadlines, and extremely careful in their negotiations with opposing counsel.
By contrast, appeals often involve large amounts of writing, legal research, and arguing legal doctrines before a judge. Appellate lawyers are accustomed to having enough time to research legal issues in depth and write long briefs with intricate arguments. They come to the court room extremely well prepared and become experts on the cases before them.
Generally, lawyers find that they can best serve their clients when they focus on either trial or appellate skills. So if your case is past the trial phase and is headed to appellate court, it may be in your best interests to find a new attorney who specializes in appellate practice.
Because trial and appellate work are two different types of legal practice, the lawyer who represented you at the trial will not automatically file or handle your appeal. You must ask your lawyer to do so, or find another attorney who will. If you want to appeal your conviction, be sure to specifically and clearly inform your attorney of that fact.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently determined that an attorney's failure to file a notice of appeal does not necessarily constitute ineffective assistance of counsel as long as the defendant did not clearly convey his or her wishes on the subject. In many states, the state public defender (or another assigned counsel) generally will handle the appeal for those unable to pay.
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