It is a common misconception among defendants in criminal cases that they should use the same criminal defense attorney for both the original trial and the appeal. However, the lawyer that represented you during your initial criminal case might not be the best person for the job.

An appeal is not a new trial. It is a completely unique process that requires special legal skills, knowledge and experience. It is important to select your appellate lawyer wisely — and to understand that this might not be the same person who has represented your initial case.

Lack of special skills

An appellate attorney understands the distinctive traits of an appeal versus a criminal trial. He or she should have gone to school specifically for appeals and have experience in this area of law in Tennessee. Your criminal defense attorney, on the other hand, may lack the key skills necessary to excel in the appellate process:

  • In-depth legal research
  • Intricate and dense legal arguments
  • Large amounts of writing
  • Oral arguments in court

There is a reason trials and appeals are two separate areas of law. They require very different skills. If you intend to proceed with the appeals process, find an attorney that specifically handles appeals.

No experience with the unique appeals process

Filing an appeal in Tennessee not only takes certain skills but also has a special process. The case may go to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court during the different appellate phases. Your criminal defense attorney is unlikely to have the same amount of experience handling this complicated process as an appellate attorney.

No rapport with the Court of Appeals

An appellate attorney can have a history of handling cases with the Court of Appeals in your county. The lawyer most likely has a network of people he or she knows within the Court of Appeals, as well as a history with appellate court judges. These connections could help your appeal case but are not something your defense lawyer may be able to offer.

If you are in Tennessee, a federal court of appeals, or a military court of appeals and have questions about appeals or appellate attorneys, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith and his work in Federal Indian Law appeals in the November, 2019 ABA Journal, (the national magazine of the American Bar Association), at