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Five Hard Truths About an Appellate Practice, with Raffi Melkonian

Tim Kowal     March 26, 2024

Raffi Melkonian has argued and won in the U.S. Supreme Court, and started the #AppellateTwitter community of appellate attorneys on Twitter/X, where he has over 65,000 followers, and speaks and writes on appeals across the country. And Raffi is here to tell you that building a business on an appellate practice—even a very successful one—is very hard to do.

We discuss his five observations about why a full-time appellate practice is hard:

  1. Breaking in to the practice is very hard.
  2. Don’t expect to get full-time work writing appellate briefs—you’re going to have to mix it up some in the trial court.
  3. Once you’ve done the very hard work modifying expectations and breaking into the practice, get ready: maintaining it full-time is even harder.
  4. Which is why you are going to have to make some trade-offs.
  5. The business of law was not designed with an appellate practice in mind, so doing high-end sophisticated appeals all the time is no one’s idea of a sound business model.

Raffi Melkonian’s biography, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter/X feed.

Appellate Specialist Jeff Lewis' biography, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter feed.

Appellate Specialist Tim Kowal's biography, LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed, and YouTube page.

Sign up for Not To Be Published, Tim Kowal’s weekly legal update, or view his blog of recent cases.

The California Appellate Law Podcast thanks Casetext for sponsoring the podcast. Listeners receive a discount on Casetext Basic Research at casetext.com/CALP. The co-hosts, Jeff and Tim, were also invited to try Casetext’s newest technology, CoCounsel, the world’s first AI legal assistant. You can discover CoCounsel for yourself with a demo and free trial at casetext.com/CoCounsel.

Other items discussed in the episode:

Tim Kowal is an appellate specialist certified by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Tim helps trial attorneys and clients win their cases and avoid error on appeal. He co-hosts the Cal. Appellate Law Podcast at CALpodcast.com, and publishes summaries of cases and appellate tips for trial attorneys. Contact Tim at [email protected] or (949) 676-9989.
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