How Much Is An Appellate Win Worth To You?

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The question posed by the header isn’t a metaphorical one or some sort of ethical dilemma where you have to decide whether you’d lie, cheat, or steal in order to win a case. Rather, it is asking, literally, how much you’d pay for the chance to increase your possibility of winning an appellate case.

If you’ve handled appellate work as part of an office, rather than as a solo practitioner, you’re probably well aware of the time-honored tradition of roping your colleagues into listening to you pontificate in a conference room somewhere while they do their very best to trip you up. This isn’t to say that solo practitioners don’t similarly corral colleagues – you just might not be able to do it by buttonholing people at the coffee machine. You may have even done some networking to get access to someone outside your office that is more high-profile or more experienced, and because that person is a friend of a friend, they’ve likely done it for you for free or nearly so. But would you pay? Could you get your clients to pay? There are some BigLaw appellate attorneys that hope the answer is yes:

Philip Lacovara, 69, Evan Davis, 69, and George Davidson, 71, all former Am Law 100 appellate specialists, have teamed up to offer what they see as a valuable service: a moot panel designed to provide lawyers pursuing an appeal with honest criticism from a neutral source.

Operating as “The Panel,” the three attorneys may have credentials that are too good to pass up (and too numerous to go into here). Suffice to say they’re all heavy hitters, with high numbers of Supreme Court and federal appellate court cases under their belts. So now how much would you pay? How does almost $25K sound?

Lacovara, Davis, and Davidson plan to charge $8,000 apiece—$24,000 for the triumvirate—to review briefs, hear arguments, and give oral feedback related to specific cases. The three attorneys say that issuing written conclusions about the arguments isn’t part of their pitch and emphasize that they will only venture an opinion about whether those who hire them are likely to win or lose if asked.

While I just reeled from the sticker shock of that price tag, the good folks at American Lawyer took the time to ask several attorneys who handle appellate work whether they’d be likely to use the service. The answer was generally no – both because of the car-sized price and because they felt they had enough existing resources they could tap into.

What about you? Would you pay for appellate experts? How much? Perhaps most importantly, how hard would it be to get your client to pay for such a service?

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  • beezuskiddo

    I have worked with appellate experts (although not at that price tag). I find that it’s worth the extra cost when you have an issue that is REALLY interesting to the appellate court. Taking those extra steps can boost your performance when you’ve got an issue the judges want a chance to write about.

    If it’s not a super-exciting issue, though, it’s not worth the money. Having the world’s sharpest presentation isn’t going to get the judges to tune in if it’s not something they’re already excited about.