Appellate Process: The Value of an Expert Appellate Services Team

A number of appellate services providers (also known as appellate printers) offer a similar spectrum of services for preparing, filing and serving appeals, yet many appellate attorneys are very selective when choosing an appellate services provider. More often than not, the lowest price quote is not the best alternative. Working with one of the larger providers, which are better equipped, generally comes with the convenience of working on your documents up to minutes from filing and serving. Most importantly, larger providers have the resources to employ an experienced staff. This article covers a few practical examples of what you can expect from working with a “high-end” provider and how this can facilitate your appeal process.

They offer strategic advice; they don’t just relay the rules
Each appellate court has their own set of rules and internal operating procedures, and it is important to be aware of the specific rules and procedures of the court you are appearing within. You can expect a “high-end” provider to employ staff (appellate counsel/consultants and appellate paralegals) that will be highly experienced in complex appellate filings and familiar with the court-specific nuances and provisions; they will help you navigate the rules and provide strategic advice, when necessary. For example, if you are running short on time, you may decide to file a Motion to Extend Time. However, certain courts have a grace period that kicks in without the need to file anything at all. You can expect your appellate services provider to alert you of this provision or to advise you on what is customarily done in the jurisdiction you are filing within.

There may also be court-specific common practices that are not stated in the rules. As an example, the rules may outline several different ways to comply with the formatting requirements for your brief, but the court’s clerks may have specific preferences on how they want your brief prepared. If the rules allow brief text to be 13-point font or greater, you may not be doing the court a favor by sizing your font at 15 points. An experienced provider is equipped to assist in this area.

They help you leave a lasting first impression; they don’t just print your documents
Although electronic filing and electronic submissions have recently been at the top of the agenda in the appellate community, most courts still require paper copies, and it will be a while before paper filings disappear. The quality of the paper and print is crucial to leaving a lasting first impression. When working with a "high-end" provider, you can expect that your documents will be handled by experienced print technicians and will be printed on state-of-the-art equipment, ensuring exceptional print quality. Sophisticated machinery also permit for a speedy turnaround time (more than 30,000 pages per-hour!), which, in turn, gives you more time to work with the brief.

They are at the forefront of the “electronic trend”; they don’t just adapt to the new rules
There have recently been many changes in the appellate rules regarding electronic filing and electronic submission, and many courts have made these mandatory. This has further complicated appellate practice. There are now various electronic filing systems that differ from court-to-court, and different jurisdictions have varying rules on how they prefer to accept these submissions. Once again, you can expect a “high-end” provider to be at the forefront of the “electronic trend” – i.e., utilize technologies which allow for scanning and digital manipulation of documents (such as OCR and digital sizing), offer electronic submissions (either PDF/Enhanced or PDF/Archive) and electronic briefs (eBrief), all while ensuring rule-compliant electronic filing.

Most of the appellate services providers operate locally, assisting attorneys with filings within their local state(s), and only a few providers actually have nationwide capabilities and reach. These national companies have tremendous experience with the appellate process (filing within many federal and state appellate courts nationwide), as well as with e-filings (including regular use of PACER and other electronic filing systems implemented nationwide). When new rules for electronic filing are being considered, it is not uncommon for the courts to ask the leading service provider(s) to convey their knowledge and to provide sound advice on the proposed rules and the technical requirements. Collaboration between the courts and service providers is mutually beneficial – the courts have the opportunity to improve the overall filing process, whereas the service providers are uniquely positioned to advise their clients on how to best comply with the court's requirements. Once again, it is often advantageous to counsel to work with a larger provider.

Their client web portal offers more than just a document sharing function
These days, most appellate service providers offer attorneys the convenience of uploading their documents to a web portal. These web portals are specifically designed for document sharing and the upload/download process is typically completed in a matter of just a few minutes, regardless of the size of the document. Sophisticated appellate services providers offer additional comprehensive functionality – i.e., information about current or past cases (including important filing deadlines), real-time confirmation of services and filings, electronic notification of actions completed and actions required, receive alerts of oral argument dates, view your invoices and make credit card payments.

Their services go beyond appellate printing
Having that extra layer of resources allows larger companies to offer extra services, some of which may even be outside of the traditional appellate printing spectrum. As an example, through its award-winning CP Legal Research Group, my company, Counsel Press, provides attorneys with research and writing assistance for appellate briefs. We also assist attorneys with trial court pleadings, motion practices and memoranda. Also, having more than 40 members on our team of appellate experts (17 of whom are licensed attorneys) allows Counsel Press to dedicate resources to teaching appellate practice CLE courses, which we offer free of charge.

Final thought...
The biggest advantage of utilizing a leading appellate services provider is peace of mind – there is no substitute for knowing that your filing will be completed correctly the first time, every time.

Take a look at this video we put together to have some fun after we filed an enormous appeal this summer - use the link below.

Tagged: Appellate Practice, Appellate Services, Appellate Procedure, Electronic Briefs, Production & Support, Court Technology