Helping Trial Lawyers Navigate the Appellate System

Practicing Bathtub Law


It may sound strange, but I practice bathtub law.

I don’t present myself as an expert in any substantive legal topic. To the contrary, as I wrote here several years ago:

Appellate lawyers are perhaps the last of the generalists.  Although appellate practice has gained notoriety as a specialty, it focuses less on the substantive law than on the lawyer’s research and writing ability, knowledge of appellate procedure, and familiarity with the court hearing the case.  Because appeals are limited to the trial record, knowledge of the client’s business and history are not as important as the ability to guide the client through the appellate process with the goal for that specific case in mind.

The bathtub metaphor compliments this description well. When I’m handling a legal issue, working on an appeal, or getting ready for oral argument, I learn (or re-learn) everything I need to know for that particular case, filling the tub to the brim. When the task is done, I pull the plug, let the tub drain, and start anew.

Hat tip to Thom Singer and Linda Smith, who discussed this metaphor on a recent episode of Thom’s podcast, Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do.

Image courtesy of Flickr by John Fink.

D. Todd Smith
About the Author

D. Todd Smith is an Austin-based civil appellate specialist who works with trial teams from the earliest stages of litigation. In trial courts, he takes the lead on strategic analysis and briefing, jury charges, and potentially dispositive motions, all with a focus on preserving error and positioning cases for appellate review.

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