Things to consider when choosing appellate counsel in Virginia

How do you choose the right law firm for your appeal in Virginia?

Virginia Supreme Court

 CALL TODAY – 804-783-2000

1) Find an attorney who is interested in your case.


You don’t want an attorney that views your case as simple one more case, or merely the funding source to send his children to a nice school in the West End.   You want an experienced attorney that is interested in your case.


2) Find an attorney that will review with you the timelines for your case.


In appeals many of the deadlines are critical.  You have limited time to file the appeal. You have limited time to file your transcript.  Failing to timely file the transcript may result in the dismissal of the appeal petition.   For example, “McGuireWoods, LLP … as legal counsel for Wintergreen, filed a notice of appeal for Wintergreen, but failed to ensure that the trial transcripts were timely filed. Because the issues on appeal required consideration of the transcripts, this Court dismissed Wintergreen’s petition for appeal.” Wintergreen Partners, Inc. v. McGuirewoods, LLP, 280 Va. 374, 376 (Va. 2010) citing Wintergreen Partners, Inc. v. Grigg, Record No. 042956 (July 7, 2005) (unpublished). You have limited time to file your petition.   Your deadlines are too important not to be discussed with you.


3) Find an attorney that will discuss the appropriate standard of review that the appellate court will be using.


At the appeal level, one of the first tasks to be undertaken is to determine the appropriate standard of review that the court should employ.  There are different standards that may apply.


When the appeal presents purely legal questions of statutory and constitutional interpretation the court will review the matter de novo. L.F. v. Breit, 285 Va. 163, 176 (2013) citing Copeland v. Todd, 282 Va. 183, 193, 715 S.E.2d 11, 16 (2011); Addison v. Jurgelsky, 281 Va. 205, 208, 704 S.E.2d 402, 404 (2011).


The standard of review for court’s sustaining a demurrer or granting summary judgment are similar issues of law which the court reviews de novo or fresh.


If the appeal seeks to challenge a circuit court’s sustaining of a demurrer, then the standard of review is as follows:


A trial court’s decision sustaining a demurrer presents a question of law which the appellate court reviews de novo. Furthermore, like the trial court, the appellate court is confined to those facts that are expressly alleged, impliedly alleged, and which can be inferred from the facts alleged.  Harris v. Kreutzer, 271 Va. 188, 195-96, 624 S.E.2d 24, 28 (2006).


The standard of review applicable to the circuit court’s sustaining of a demurrer is well established:A demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of a [complaint] and admits the truth of all material facts that are properly pleaded. The facts admitted are those expressly alleged, those that are impliedly alleged, and those that may be fairly and justly inferred from the facts alleged.  The trial court is not permitted on demurrer to evaluate and decide the merits of the allegations set forth in a [complaint], but only may determine whether the factual allegations of the [complaint] are sufficient to state a cause of action.


4) Find an attorney that has experience.


Practicing law is a constant education.   You probably want an attorney that has experience, one that can say “This ain’t my first rodeo!”


5) Find an attorney whose fees are reasonable for the work to be done.


Legal fees are significant in appeals.  Considerable time must be spent reviewing the record and in legal research for precedent to support the claim that the outcome of the trial or hearing should be reversed, modified or affirmed.  You should ask the attorney that you are considering engaging to give you some examples of fees charged in other appeals worked on by the law firm.


 6) Find an attorney with whom you are comfortable and confident.


While there are a lot of technical legal concepts that your attorney should understand better than you, much of law is just plain common sense.  Clients are a valuable source of information — if you believe something in the trial court was wrong, you should be able to discuss this with your attorney.

He should be willing to discuss with you those impressions and able to provide to you an explanation of whether the law supports or rejects those impressions.   You should be both comfortable and confident in the lawyer you choose to do your appeal.


 7) You should discuss your appeal with a lawyer with the firm of Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C.


The law firm of Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C. and its division Hull Street Law, have attorneys that are interested in the law and justice.  They have experience in the courts of Virginia.  They are accessible.


Contact the Law Firm


Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C.
105 S 1st Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 783-2000 


Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals


The materials are prepared for information purposes only.  The materials are not legal advice and you should not act upon the information without seeking the advice of an attorney.  Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship.