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Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need an appellate attorney?
What if an appeal is likely to affect my rights but I am not a party to it?
What kinds of appeals does Burke Neal PLLC handle?
I’m a trial attorney and have important issues in the trial court right now. Should I wait to contact you until the appeal?
Does the firm handle anything other than appeals?
Can you share examples of cases you have handled?
What is involved in retaining the firm?

Why do I need an appellate attorney?


The attorneys at Burke Neal PLLC have experience as both trial attorneys and appellate advocates. So we understand an appeal is not just a continuation of trial-level litigation. A client and his or her trial attorney often have the best chance on appeal if they retain the services of an appellate lawyer. Here’s why:

First, the rules are different. Rules of procedure and preservation matter a great deal on appeal. An appeal is not a “do over.” Hiring an appellate lawyer helps the client and trial lawyer navigate appellate procedural hurdles with confidence.

Second, to be effective on appeal, a lawyer uses very different skills from those necessary in the trial court. An appellate practitioner has the experience necessary to evaluate what issues, if any, are likely to succeed on appeal. Issues that may have consumed litigation in the trial court are often of marginal significance on appeal. Issues that seemed minor in the trial court may become critical on appeal. Understanding the difference depends on regular and repeated exposure to the appellate process.

Third, an appellate lawyer is able to limit his or her review of the case to only what is contained in the record, just as an appellate court will do. This independent review is extremely valuable for both the client and trial attorney on appeal.

What if an appeal is likely to affect my rights but I am not a party to it?


A person or organization not a party to an appeal, but who has an interest in the issues, can seek permission from the court to file a brief as an “amicus curiae,” which means “friend of the court.” An amicus brief allows an interested individual or organization to have a voice in an important appellate decision, and can increase the persuasive force of the position of the litigants if the interests are aligned. The attorneys at Burke Neal PLLC have substantial experience in this area and have filed numerous amicus briefs on behalf of organizations and trade groups.

What kinds of cases does Burke Neal PLLC handle?


We handle almost any kind of appellate proceeding, including appeals from final judgments and from non-final orders, as well as original proceedings such as petitions for writs of prohibition or mandamus.

We also have substantial experience in the following areas: complex civil and criminal litigation, personal injury, wrongful death, insurance coverage issues, arbitration, contract disputes, constitutional issues, class actions, family law, administrative law, business and employment litigation, motor vehicle accidents, products liability, and professional negligence.

Our lawyers have handled or assisted in literally hundreds of appeals in a wide range of courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Courts of Appeals for the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits, in addition to our extensive work in all appellate courts in Kentucky.

I’m a trial attorney and have important issues in the trial court right now. Should I wait to contact your firm until the appeal?


No—the best place to put forward your strongest legal argument is usually the trial court. Hiring an appellate practitioner to consult or assist with key trial-level briefing is critical. Here’s why:

First, if you fail to make key arguments in the trial court you may forfeit the right to raise the arguments if the case appealed. Don’t look back with regret.

Second, a solid legal argument in the trial court may dissuade your opponent from challenging it later on appeal. But a weak legal argument in the trial court—even if successful—can needlessly prolong the case.

Third, how you make a legal argument can dramatically increase or decrease the chances for a favorable settlement. The opposition likely cannot appeal what it views as “weak analysis” or a “bad ruling” until after final judgment—so the incentive may be to simply wait it out. Cursory legal arguments change how your opponent values the case in a negative way.

Fourth, managing trial-level litigation is hard work. As the best trial lawyers know, having an appellate attorney independently evaluate or assist with key legal arguments in the trial court is essential for best results.

Fifth, trial attorneys often hire medical experts, accident reconstruction experts, vocational economists, etc., because independent experts strengthen their clients’ cases. Why invest less in critical legal arguments?

Does the firm handle anything other than appeals?


Yes, our attorneys work side-by-side with litigation and trial counsel on key legal issues, analysis, and briefing at all levels, from case intake through appeal.

Unlike specialized appellate or legal research groups, the attorneys at Burke Neal PLLC have over thirty years combined trial and litigation experience in state and federal courts. We understand the unique pressures and obstacles trial attorneys face. And we are privileged to work beside Kentucky trial counsel to develop, respond to, and preserve key legal arguments in civil and criminal cases.

In addition to working with attorneys, we also counsel individuals and businesses not yet represented by a lawyer and, if appropriate, refer them to trial or litigation attorneys experienced in specific subject areas.

Can you share examples of cases you have handled?


While appellate judges decide cases based on the law and facts, and not on the reputation of the lawyers involved, having an experienced and credible advocate who can clearly and persuasively explain your position on appeal will maximize the chances of success. See a list of our recent, representative cases here.

What is involved in retaining the firm?


Most often, trial or litigation attorneys contact us on behalf of their clients. However, individuals and businesses not currently represented by counsel are welcome to contact us for initial legal consultation.