Questions & Answers for Joseph S. Klapach
What type of clients do you represent?
I represent a wide variety of businesses and individuals. Some of my clients are large corporations with sophisticated in-house counsel and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues. Some of my clients are small, family-run businesses. And some of my clients are individuals who find themselves unexpectedly embroiled in a legal dispute.
What does an appellate attorney do?
An appellate attorney specializes in handling appeals after a trial or a ruling by a lower court. Whether I represent the losing party who wishes to overturn the lower court’s ruling or the winning party who wishes to preserve the lower court’s ruling, my role and practice as an appellate lawyer are very different from the practice of a trial lawyer. Whereas a trial lawyer spends much of his time developing the facts of the case, an appellate attorney is concerned chiefly with framing the legal issues to the appellate court in the most favorable light, through both briefing and oral argument. The key to being an exceptional appellate attorney is to present those legal issues that will resonate with the judges and to bring legal acumen and common sense to bear in addressing those issues.
When should a client retain an appellate attorney?
I strongly encourage clients to retain my services as soon as the possibility of an appeal arises – typically before the trial is over. When a client contacts me before the lower court issues its ruling, I can assist trial counsel in preserving legal issues for appeal and in framing the procedural and substantive issues so as to maximize the likelihood of success on appeal. That said, I have also won numerous appeals for clients who have contacted me after the trial court has issued a ruling.
What work experience, education, or life experience makes you a better appellate attorney?
I graduated from Cornell Law School at the top of my class and then spent a year clerking on the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. My clerkship was instrumental in honing my legal skills and learning how appellate judges review and evaluate appeals. After my clerkship, I spent over seven years handling appeals at one of the most prestigious law firms in the nation. I have briefed and argued appeals before both federal and state appellate courts and have handled more than 25 appeals and writ proceedings. By handling all facets of an appeal, I have gained a thorough knowledge and understanding of the complexities of appellate procedure, the mindset of the judges who hear appeals, and the types of arguments that work best before appellate courts.
What type of trials have you handled?
I have extensive experience trying complex, high-profile business disputes with millions of dollars at stake. I have tried cases before juries, judges, and arbitrators involving such varied areas of the law as business torts, contracts, criminal law, employment law, and professional malpractice.
What work experience, education, or life experience makes you a better trial attorney?
A good trial attorney has both legal knowledge and street smarts. I developed my legal expertise studying at Cornell Law School, clerking for a federal judge, and working at one of the most prestigious litigation firms in the nation. However, a trial attorney cannot get street smarts from a book. There is no substitute for hands-on trial experience – for standing before a jury and cross-examining a hostile witness when the case is on the line. The years that I have spent trying cases have given me the necessary hands-on experience to litigate cases successfully.
Please describe your approach to lawyering.
I have an old-fashioned approach to lawyering – I treat the client’s problem as if it were my own. I give my full attention to each client’s case and take the time to fully explain to my clients what they need to know to make informed decisions. I am always thinking and strategizing about how best to advance and protect my clients’ interests.
What are your personal interests?
I enjoy literature, writing poetry and short fiction, classic comedy teams, and soccer.