What’s the Difference Between Trial & Appellate Attorney in Georgia?

What’s the difference between trial & appellate attorney in Georgia? Learn who represents you in court & appeals. Get legal insights today!

Are Trial and Appellate Lawyers the Same?


A trial and an appeal are two different processes. Depending on your case, you may require the assistance of an attorney who can take your legal issue to court or challenge the court’s decision on appeal.

Choosing the right attorney is crucial to obtaining the results you want. Here’s everything you need to know about trial and appeals attorneys.

What Is a Trial Court?

When you are facing criminal or civil charges, your case will be handled by the appropriate trial court. Trial courts hear criminal and civil issues, evaluate the oral arguments and evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense, and produce judgments. In Georgia, trial courts are divided into different levels:

  • Magistrate Court: Hears civil cases involving amounts up to $15,000 and some minor criminal offenses.

  • Municipal Court: Deals with misdemeanor offenses committed within the city limits.

  • State Court: Handles misdemeanors and certain felony cases, as well as appeals from lower courts.

  • Superior Court: Handles serious criminal offenses, felony, and civil cases involving more than $15,000.

  • Juvenile Court: Handles cases involving children under the age of 18.

  • Probate Court: Handles wills, estates, and guardianships.

What Do Trial Attorneys Do?

When a civil or criminal matter arises, trial attorneys are the initial contact attorneys. They represent the involved parties throughout the legal process and trial hearings. You should contact a trial attorney when you want to bring a case to court or defend yourself against criminal or civil claims.

Some of the traits an experienced trial lawyer possesses include the following:

1. Excellent Communication Skills

What forms the narrative of a case is the clear explanation of the events that gave rise to it. Experienced trial lawyers with exceptional communication skills can efficiently present your case and arguments.

Communication, negotiation, and persuasion skills are crucial throughout the trial, including jury selection, opening statements, examination and cross-examination, and closing arguments.

2. Well-Refined Listening Skills

Experienced trial lawyers have good listening skills. This skill enables trial lawyers to fully understand their client’s story and that of the opposing party. The lawyer may miss crucial information and jeopardize their case without excellent listening skills.

3. Excellent Examination and Cross-Examination Skills

Your trial attorney will examine witnesses to secure evidence favorable to your case before the judge and the jury. They must also be skillful at cross-examining the opposing party’s witnesses to reveal inconsistencies in their case.

What Is an Appellate Court?

When you are not satisfied with the trial court’s judgment in a case, you can file an appeal against the trial court’s ruling in an appeals court. Georgia’s appellate courts include the Supreme Court of Georgia and the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals in Georgia serves as the court of the first review for criminal and civil decisions by trial courts. Almost all appeals are filed with this appellate court first. If the Court of Appeals decision is also unfavorable, you can take your claim to the Supreme Court.

Georgia Supreme Court has original appellate jurisdiction only in cases that involve murder, constitutionality issues, and habeas corpus cases. This means that you can appeal directly to the Supreme Court in these cases.

Appellate courts do not engage in a full rehearing of cases. Unlike trial courts, appellate courts do not hear new evidence of witness testimonies. Instead, they review the trial record to identify possible errors of law that could have affected the decision.

Hiring an appellate attorney is necessary to file an appeal appropriately. Experienced criminal appeal lawyers at Strickland Webster, LLC can handle your appellate case.


What Do Appellate Attorneys Do?

Hiring an appellate lawyer is necessary to help you with the appeals process. There are different types of appeals that you can pursue, depending on your case and case progress. These include direct appeal, discretionary appeal, and interlocutory appeal. Your attorney will help you identify your options and guide you through them.

An experienced appellate attorney will review the trial court’s record to determine whether there was any error in your trial and draft a strong brief to present your arguments in the best way possible.

To appeal the final judgment of a trial court, your appellate attorney must file the notice of appeal within 30 days after the final judgment is given in the initial trial.

What are the Differences Between Trial and Appellate Attorneys?

Some key differences between trial and appellate attorneys include the following:



A trial attorney’s goal is to prevail in a legal dispute by securing a favorable civil or acquittal judgment in a criminal suit.

However, an appellate attorney’s goal is to convince the appellate judges that the trial court’s decision is unlawful and warrants a retrial, acquittal, or sentence reduction.


Trial attorneys become involved in a case long before a trial is scheduled. They can represent you during the criminal investigation and police interview, investigate your case and gather evidence, locate and introduce witnesses, negotiate with the prosecution, and represent you at the preliminary hearings.

On the other hand, an appellate lawyer’s duty is to look for and identify possible grounds for appeal. This means they go through trial records and transcripts to identify constitutional violations or errors of law or procedure that could have affected your sentence or conviction. Once a valid ground for appeal is established, your lawyer will initiate the appellate process.



Distinct laws and rules govern trials and appeals. For this reason, hiring a trial attorney for your appeal may not be a wise decision.

Trial lawyers are familiar with litigation procedures and rules but rarely with appeals. If you want to challenge a trial court’s decision, ask about your trial attorney’s experience handling appeals. If they don’t have any, opt for an experienced appellate attorney.


Strickland Webster, LLC Can Help You With Both


Criminal defense and appeals attorneys at Strickland Webster, LLC will be happy to help you achieve the outcome you anticipate, whatever your case may be.

We have a proven track record of success handling litigation and appeals across Georgia and Alabama. Do you want to appeal your federal conviction? Our federal appeals lawyer can help you. Contact us today and schedule a free consultation.