John Reeves founded Reeves Law LLC in 2019 to provide legal services as an appellate specialist.
In 2023, Missouri Lawyers Media named Mr. Reeves to its POWER list of the top 30 appellate lawyers in Missouri. He was one of only four solo practitioners to receive this honor, and is currently the youngest lawyer on the list.
Over the past several decades, the legal industry has come to recognize that the skills required for briefing and arguing an appeal are different from—although complementary to—the skills required for litigating a trial. While litigating a trial requires a basic ability to conduct legal research and write motions, briefing an appeal takes legal research and writing to a much higher, more complex level. And unlike a trial, where counsel primarily focuses on developing the facts in the client’s favor through the introduction of evidence, an appeal requires counsel to focus on whether the trial court misapplied the law or erroneously stated the law. As such, the oral argument on appeal is extremely different from the opening and closing arguments at trial.
Given how an appeal requires a different set of legal skills from those required at trial, many clients and trial attorneys are recognizing the need to retain an appellate specialist to brief and argue their appeals.
If a party lost at trial and is considering an appeal, an appellate specialist can also evaluate the case and advise both the party and trial counsel whether an appeal is worthwhile—including the relative risk, if any, involved in taking an appeal.
Retain an Appellate Specialist
It is becoming increasingly common for clients and trial attorneys to retain an appellate specialist during the trial to advise on the proceedings.
An appellate specialist can advise trial counsel on a variety of matters during the trial. This includes preserving objections for appeal, ensuring that the record is clear, assisting in the drafting of jury instructions, and assisting in the drafting of pre-verdict and post-verdict motions. This frees up trial counsel to do what it does best—develop a case’s facts—while providing the client with specialized representation on the case’s legal complexities. Even at the pre-trial dispositive motion stage (e.g., a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment), a need may exist for an appellate specialist to advise trial counsel on the requirements of such motions.