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Career Story: Appellate Attorney For A City

Appellate Attorney For A City

Job Title: Appellate Attorney

Type of Company: I work for a city law department that is responsible for representing the mayor and all city agencies in state and federal court.

Education: BA in Economics, Williams College, JD Northeastern University School of Law

Previous Experience: I was a law clerk at a state appeals court for two years, then worked for a state attorney general office for six years before coming to the appeals division of a city law department.

Job Tasks: I research legal issues, write briefs, and argue cases in court. If, for example, somebody sues the city because they hurt themselves on city property or believe that they were discriminated against in their city job, if the party who loses at trial decides to appeal, I will represent the city on appeal. I will research the legal issues, write the appellate brief, and then argue the case to a panel of judges in the appellate court.

On a typical day, I will be researching legal issues and working on drafting a brief. Most of the research materials are on the Internet, so I rarely go to the library to look things up. While writing the brief, I will often talk to my supervisor or colleagues about how best to present our legal arguments to the court. Before the brief is filed with the court, it will be reviewed by my supervisor, the client, and the trial attorney who worked on the case in the lower court.

Once the brief is filed, I wait to hear from the court about when the argument is scheduled. To prepare for the argument, I will re-read all of the briefs, review the law, and discuss the case with my colleagues. When I go to court to argue the case I will try to present my arguments to the court before the judges start to interrupt me with questions about the case.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job are learning about new legal theories and being introduced to new aspects of city government and city life.

The worst parts of the job are having to defend the city against frivolous lawsuits or having a lot of cases raising similar claims. A lot of people sue the city when they trip on a crack in the sidewalk and it is not that interesting or rewarding to keep defending against these sorts of claims.

Job Tips: The most important part of my job is writing. Learning how to organize your thoughts and express them clearly on paper is the single most important skill for this type of work. If you cannot clearly explain to the court why you think you should win the case, you are unlikely to win! Never stop working on your writing.

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