Month: February 2012

A Certain Appeal

I confess: I like doing appellate work. There’s a certain masochistic joy for me in such highly specialized writing. Every word matters. Every comma counts. You have to know your opponents’ arguments better than your own, and be prepared for everything. You have to cite cases on point, and distinguish the ones against you. Fifty or sixty pages later, you have something theoretically approaching coherency, and you file it in and mail your copies and hope for the best. Months later, you learn the result of your toils.

Sometimes, it’s one sentence.

Reversed and remanded.

Sometimes, it’s one word.


Sometimes, it’s an opinion that changes the landscape of the law. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. But the thrill is always there, and for an extreme introvert like me, the benefits are myriad. No oral argument. Little client interaction. It’s just you and your cases, and your legal pads, your notes and dictionaries, your transcripts and Blue Book. It’s trial and error, edits and rewrites, margins and paragraphs and page counts and formatting. It’s not something anyone should enjoy doing, and yet there’s a perverse sense of satisfaction in creating something from nothing.

I liken it to what a parent must feel when their child leaves for college. Your creation, the thing you’ve poured your heart and soul and blood and sweat into, this miniature reflection of your own self; it’s hard to let go. It’s hard to send it into the world and trust that you’ve done all you can to prepare for the inevitable battles ahead. You spend sleepless nights throwing things around in your head: Was it enough? What more could I have done? You are never, at any moment, not afraid of losing, even as you know not to internalize and that it’s just a job.

Some days, the words flow like rain. Some days you fight the temptation to throw every book you own out the window. In the span of one afternoon, I’ve quit my job, applied to medical school, moved to the beach, written a novel, and seriously considered a career in college football coaching. Twenty-four hours later and twenty pages behind me, I’ve decided it’s the greatest thing in the world. It’s alternatively ridiculous and worthwhile, important and meaningless. It’s a tidal wave of emotions that doesn’t retreat at 5:00 every day.

The Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rule  31(a) mandates that appellate briefs are due within 28 days of the completion and certification of the record. Twenty-eight days are all you get. Day 29 will be here soon, and part of me is already dreading it.