I am often asked by recent law school graduates, or those still in law school, what they should be doing to pursue a career in appellate law. I recently came upon this December 2017 article that discusses this issue: Kowarski, I. (Dec. 1, 2017) Pick the Right Law School for an Appellate Career, USNews.com
The article, I think is very good so far as it goes. As everyone knows, more and more specialization is happening in the world, including law, so you need to start earlier and earlier to develop your career in any field. That truth applies to being an appellate lawyer. My alma mater, Northwestern, is the first law school to offer a federal appellate clinic, a Supreme Court clinic, and an appellate concentration, so that you are trained with an appellate focus from the get go: Northwestern Allellate Law Curricular Offerings
Lots of factors go into the mix in deciding how pursue an appellate law career, like where you are going to live, what kind of appellate law you want to practice, how intellectually brainy you are, etc. But perhaps the most important question is where does being an appellate lawyer fit on the hierarchy of matters of importance in deciding on your career, compared to factors like location and income? If it sits at the tippy top, then aside from going to a school like NU, after that you’ll want to go somewhere where there are more opportunities to practice appellate law and where appellate law is a recognized specialty, like Arizona, California, DC and Texas, or at least a big city, like Chicago. You’ll want to clerk, preferably somewhere where you want to end up. Appellate law is mostly about writing, so start that in earnest in kindergarten. And start making friends with trial lawyers and in-house counsel as soon as possible, because that’s typically where your work will come from, unless you pick a career in the government.