Helping Trial Lawyers Navigate the Appellate System


Trial preparation can be overwhelming. When ramping up to present your case factually, taking the time to address legal issues that may crop up on appeal is tough. I help trial lawyers boost their confidence and lower their stress by handling those legal issues before, during, and after trial.

After law school, I spent two years clerking with the Texas Supreme Court and nine more practicing in the litigation and appellate groups at a large international firm. I then went out on my own and spent the next fifteen years in the trenches. Now, at Butler Snow LLP, I combine small-firm agility with big-firm resources to help trial lawyers achieve the best possible results for their clients.

I’m an early adopter who enjoys doing things differently. Shortly after hanging my own shingle, I started the first blog dedicated to Texas appellate practice and taught myself how to become more efficient through legal technology. More recently, I created a podcast that demystifies appellate law and pulls back the curtain on the appellate system through conversations with judges, court staff, and trial and appellate practitioners. These technological labors of love have expanded my network, broadened my perspective, and enhanced the skills I apply to my craft.

Briefing and arguing cases on appeal is an important component of any appellate practice. But the foundation for a successful appeal is often laid (or dismantled) long before then. That’s why I focus on helping trial lawyers avoid appellate pitfalls from the earliest stages of litigation.

About the Author
D. Todd Smith

D. Todd Smith practices in the Appellate and Written Advocacy Group at Butler Snow LLP, where he represents clients in all phases of civil appeals and original proceedings and works with trial teams from the earliest stages of litigation. In trial courts, Todd 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.

Todd earned degrees from Texas Christian University (B.S. 1989), Texas Tech University (M.P.A. 1992), and St. Mary’s University School of Law (J.D. 1995). While in law school, he was editor in chief of the St. Mary’s Law Journal and interned with Fifth Circuit Judge Emilio M. Garza (ret.).

Before joining Butler Snow, Todd served as a briefing attorney to Texas Supreme Court Justice Raul A. Gonzalez (ret.) (1995-1997), practiced with Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. (now Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP) (1997-2006), and ran his own civil appellate boutique (2006-2021). He is certified as a specialist in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and regularly appears on Thomson Reuters’ Texas Super Lawyers list.

Todd frequently writes and speaks on appellate-related topics. In addition to publishing Texas Appellate Strategy, he is the creator, producer, and co-host of the Texas Appellate Law Podcast, a weekly show that demystifies appellate law and pulls back the curtain on the appellate system through conversations with judges, court staff, and practitioners.

Todd sits on the State Bar Board of Directors, is immediate past chair of the Austin Bar Foundation, and is a past-president of the Austin Bar Association. As Austin Bar president (2019-2020), Todd spearheaded creation of the Lawyer Well-Being Committee, which aims to educate, support and connect the Austin legal community to achieve more balanced, mindful, and joyful lives and practices. He also serves on the Judicial Committee on Information Technology, is a trustee of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, and is a member of the Robert W. Calvert American Inn of Court.

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