Gallagher & Associates Law Firm, Pennsylvania
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September 7, 2021 – The pandemic and associated lockdowns and remote working have posed a number of challenges for teamwork and group cohesion. In particular, law students and new lawyers have been deeply affected.
They had to establish a base of connections, acquire new skills and gain experience through Zoom courses and meetings, all the while forgoing the hands-on training they would normally receive by working alongside more experienced lawyers on Business. This is especially problematic in law firms, where most of the informal mentoring and keys to success are shared over lunch or impromptu discussions in the lobby.
In the area of appellate practice, some have taken advantage of technology to address these training and growth gaps.
As the pandemic raged last year and associates’ summer plans and bar exams were postponed, online training opportunities emerged.
Two examples: The Orange County Bar Association (OCBA) founded an online Summer Appellate Academy, inspired by the North Carolina Court of Appeals’ online extension of their normally local and in-person external training.
The Academy consisted of four free weekly programs for all law students, which were taught by experienced attorneys and appellate judges, and focused on short writing, oral argument, process and appeal procedure and jobs on appeal. Acclaimed legal writing professor Ross Guberman presented the Brief Pro Bono Writing Course.
At the end of the Academy, students and new lawyers who attended all sessions were given a certificate, which they could use to demonstrate their interest in appeal work and show that they had taken the initiative. to be productive and add to their toolbox during the pandemic. Some participants subsequently obtained internships with appellate judges.
The OCBA also expanded virtual appeal offerings during the academic year, including an oral argument program taught by appellate judges from the Ninth Circuit and California. And many recorded sessions of the Appellate Academy remain online for prospective students.
Many lawyers and law students have turned to business-oriented social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter to maintain, develop and build relationships, and to grow their brands. Appeals lawyers in particular are flocking to Twitter; many judges also participate in the #AppellateTwitter discussions.
A number of appeal-focused podcasts have popped up over the past two years, including the Texas Appellate Law Podcast and the California Appellate Law Podcast. Both feature esteemed appellate judges and lawyers on appellate practice topics.
The Texas podcast in particular focuses some of its episodes on the training of new lawyers and the diversity within the appeal boards and the bar. Also of interest to law students and new lawyers: Professor Jonah Perlin’s How I Lawyer podcast, which features interviews with lawyers in a variety of practice areas (including on appeal). It’s like a virtual job fair.
Todd Smith and Jody Sanders (hosts of the Texas Appellate Law podcast) also founded an informal monthly room for appeal attorneys on the Clubhouse app. Lawyers and appellate judges from across the country discuss topics such as advocacy and advise on gaining appellate experience as a new lawyer.
These often intimate groups of 20 to 30 lawyers and law students often provided an opportunity to ask appellate judges for their views on the effectiveness of appellate briefings and pleadings. The informal setting allows for frank conversation.
Previously, the province of the Solicitor General’s offices, the call colleague positions have cropped up in the call shops and a cabinet AmLaw 200 BigLaw (Buchalter). These one to two year positions are designed to give new lawyers appellate experience and catapult them into a federal internship or longer term appellate practice.
The practice on appeal is not a highly leveraged practice; the number of lawyers that each of us can train is generally limited. With fellowship positions, we can train many more members of the next generation and open up the practice to more than those who come to the firm after a federal appeal internship.
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