Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Appellate Practice: Pro Bono Opportunities With “Appeal”

By Sarah Lahlou-Amine

A pro bono client’s needs do not always end with a disposition in the trial court. An appeal may be the client’s last hope for justice. Or, a client who has prevailed in the trial court may become an appellee when the other side appeals the favorable result.

For a pro se litigant, proceeding unrepresented in an appellate court can be an overwhelming hurdle to the relief he or she needs. The ability to use one’s legal skills to help someone in need to overcome that hurdle is an incredibly satisfying and meaningful experience.

In addition to being an important component of a pro bono client’s legal needs, appellate pro bono service gives lawyers a unique opportunity to develop their skills and obtain an even more comprehensive understanding of appellate rules and procedures than their everyday practice may afford. Particularly where the client was pro se in the trial court, the uncommon issues that may arise in pro bono cases help lawyers learn the ins and outs of appellate practice, including ensuring a thorough record on appeal, organizing a layperson’s argument into concrete appellate issues, and helping a client minimize appellate costs. In these ways, appellate pro bono service provides great opportunities for a lawyer’s professional development.
The Hillsborough County Bar Association Appellate Practice Section’s Pro Bono Committee has teamed up with the Pro Bono Committee of The Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section to help interested attorneys learn about current appellate pro bono opportunities. The Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section’s Pro Bono Committee maintains a listserv for such attorneys to apprise them of these opportunities as they arise. Both sections welcome members to participate in this program.

The program provides information about pro bono opportunities in a wide array of practice areas in all of Florida’s appellate courts. Members may volunteer for opportunities across the state, regardless of where they routinely practice, because aside from a possible oral argument, the vast majority of a lawyer’s appellate work can be done from the lawyer’s office. Pro bono lawyers participating in the program are invited to work with board-certified appellate specialists who can provide mentoring to assist with the pro bono representation.

The pro bono opportunities available through the program are not limited to direct representation. Opportunities also exist for more limited appellate assistance, including providing appellate advice to legal aid offices across the state on discrete appellate issues as they arise in cases. Opportunities for those interested in program development to expand the provision of appellate pro bono service are also available.

If you have been looking for an “appealing” pro bono opportunity and would like more information about the program offered by The Florida Bar and HCBA Appellate Practice Sections’ Pro Bono Committees, please contact Sarah Lahlou-Amine at