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Appellate Law: The Law Career For Supreme Court Junkies

Are the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court rock stars to you? If so, then check out this interview with Cindy Tobisman about appellate law. After all, appellate lawyers are the types of lawyers that get to argue in front of the Supreme Court!

As a law firm partner, Cindy has great insights about these law careers. Before going into appellate law, she practiced in transactional law and litigation, and in this video, she shares how both law students and practicing lawyers can become appellate lawyers.
  Join JD Careers Out There for access to this video plus more day-in-the-life career path interview videos & transcripts.

Today’s Guest

Civil Appellate Lawyer Cindy TobismanCivil Appellate Lawyer Cindy Tobisman
Title: Partner, Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland
City: Los Angeles, CA
Law School: Berkeley Law in Berkeley, CA
College: University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, CA
Previous Careers: Before connecting with her calling of appellate law, Cindy did business litigation and affordable housing real estate transactions.
Videos: Appellate Law & Cindy’s Career Advice


This transcript previews the interview on appellate lawyers.

Join JD Careers Out There for access to the full version of this transcript plus the career guidance video library & transcripts.

Luber: Hey everyone – are you a great writer? Would you love to have a law job that revolves around your writing skills – in addition to research and getting to think creatively? That’s what we’re looking at today on JD Careers Out There, so stick around! [theme song]

Alright, as you may already know, at JDCOT we explore career paths you could do with a law degree both in and out of law. We do that to help you find a career that fits you and help you excel.

I’m your host Marc Luber, the founder of JDCOT. I’ve always used my law degree to work in alternative careers for lawyers – first in the music industry and then as a legal recruiter. I’ve been helping lawyers with their careers since 2003 and I’m excited for the opportunity to help you.

Today we’re looking at careers in appellate law and our guest is my friend Cindy Tobisman. She’s an appellate lawyer in Los Angeles where she’s a partner at Greines Martin Stein & Richland, one of California’s premiere civil appellate boutiques. She’s got a lot of stuff to tell us about appellate law and being an appellate lawyer, so let’s meet Cindy! Cindy, welcome to the show.

Cindy Tobisman: Thanks for having me.

Luber: Thank you for being here. So Cindy, I’m going to be asking you to tell us all about a typical day and who fits this path best, how to break in, and how to excel. But first, can you give us your elevator pitch on what you do as an appellate lawyer?

Cindy Tobisman: Sure. Now, being an appellate lawyer is different than being just about any other kind of lawyer, because unlike every other kind of lawyer, you don’t get out much!

Pretty much, you’re arguing and writing appeals for the courts of appeal and the Supreme Court. So what that means is that you get the case after people have won or lost in the trial court, and then you get a box of stuff, and you need to figure out what the case is about, and you put it all together.

And at the end of that process, you’re going to create a very long brief and then you’re going to argue the case in front of either the courts of appeal or the Supreme Court.

So it’s a very unusual type of lawyer. It’s a sort of wonky, almost academic kind of lawyering that trial lawyers hate. This is the stuff that they’d rather not do and it’s the stuff that we love.

Luber: Awesome and I can’t wait to hear more. We’re going to dig more into that in just a little bit. First, tell us this, because I think it will be really helpful for the audience to hear: how and why you chose to become an appellate lawyer, and who amongst our viewers that are watching right now should consider following in your footsteps?

Cindy Tobisman: Well, the thing that I’ve noticed about appellate lawyers is they tend to be sort of the broken toys and odd ducks of the law world. They tend to be very creative. They don’t mind taking a bunch of puzzle pieces and putting them together in new ways. They have very, very long attention spans.

You have to have the ability to stick with a project, be a self-starter, because in many instances, your deadlines are 30, 60, 90 days out, and you have to keep plugging away and working on it. So it’s a very autonomous, solo, existence in many ways.

And then periodically there’s this theatrical element where you show up in court and have to argue your case with a bunch of other people who have studied this area of the law, read your briefs, and have an intelligent conversation with the bench about it.

So it’s a job that on one hand requires people to be very internal, and like to write, and like to do research, and like to put things together. And on the other hand, you have to also be able to get up and speak at the end of the day and be able to express these things. And you’ve been squirreling away in your office writing this stuff endlessly, and you have to, at the end of the day, actually find a way to communicate it.

So, it’s in an area of the law that’s very good for people who love to write and who don’t mind long stretches of research and putting things together and pulling them apart. It’s a very intellectual practice. It’s a lot less fly by the seat of pants as trial law and it’s not the methodical building process and puzzling that the transactional world has.

So for people who have the right skill set for it and the right interests for it, it’s really a wonderful position.

Luber: It sounds great. And what brought you to it?

Cindy Tobisman: Well I always knew that I love to write and I always knew that I like the oral advocacy piece. But I didn’t like the day to day tussle of being a trial lawyer. And so I tried that first and I enjoyed – there’s this adrenaline rush that goes with being a trial lawyer. And so it can be very satisfying in some ways, but it’s…

Luber: Let’s continue this in the full interview! You’ll all hear lots more there from Cindy about appellate law and what it’s really like to be an appellate lawyer, how you can break in to this path and how you can excel.

You’ll want to join the JDCOT membership for access to the full, in-depth career interviews & transcripts that will help you find and land a career that fits you. Check out what people have to say about JDCOT by clicking here.

Thanks again for watching everybody. I’m Marc Luber and I’ll see ya soon.

[theme song]

©2015 Careers Out There

Do you want to argue in front of the Supreme Court? Let us know what you think about appellate law careers in the Comments section below.

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Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.