Kowal Law Group Logo

Ten Trial Tips from an Appellate Specialist

Tim Kowal     February 20, 2023

Last week I presented my talk “Ten Trial Tips from an Appellate Specialist” to the San Francisco Lawyers Network (Feb. 16, 2023). Here are the tips:

Rule Zero: Make the Record

#1 Make sure your theories of the case are captured in your pleadings

#2 Was key evidence excluded? Preserve the issue by making a proffer.

#3 Keep objecting to evidence if the judge “defers” ruling on your MIL.

#4 Object to Jury Instructions

#5 Review the Verdict for Inconsistences

#6 Request and Object to the Statement of Decision

#7 File a motion for new trial to preserve challenges to the damages amount …and Watch out for JNOVs!

#8 Calculate Appellate Deadlines Correctly

#9 Avoid Common Appellate Briefing Mistakes

#10 Advise your client about important post-judgment issues (Attorney fees and costs; SLAPP fees; Bonds and Stays of Judgment-Enforcement; Post-judgment interest)

Evergreen Tip: Get a Court Reporter!

You may download a PDF of my slideshow here.

Thank you to my colleagues who sent me their top tips!

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.
Get “Not To Be Published,” a weekly digest of these articles, delivered directly to your inbox!
Subscribe

"Upon putting laws into writing, they became even harder to change than before, and a hundred legal fictions rose to reconcile them with reality."

— Will Durant

Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your fellow men justly.

Leviticus

"Counsel on the firing line in an actual trial must be prepared for surprises, including requests for amendments of pleading. They cannot ask that a judgment afterwards obtained be set aside merely because their equilibrium was slightly disturbed by an unexpected motion."

Posz v. Burchell (1962) 209 Cal.App.2d 324, 334

"Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws."

— Plato (427-347 B.C.)

"At common law, barratry was 'the offense of frequently exciting and stirring up suits and quarrels' (4 Blackstone, Commentaries 134) and was punished as a misdemeanor."

Rubin v. Green (1993) 4 Cal.4th 1187

"A judge is a law student who grades his own papers."

— H.L. Mencken

"Moot points have to be settled somehow, once they get thrust upon us. If an assertion cannot be proved, then it must be settled some other way, and nearly all of these ways are unfair to somebody."

—T.H. White, The Once and Future King

"God made the angels to show Him splendor, … Man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind."

— Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons

"It may be that the court is thought to be excessively legalistic. I should be sorry to think that it is anything else."

— Hon. Sir Owen Dixon, Chief Justice of Australia

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

— James Madison, Federalist 62

menuchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram