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How Do I Get a Case Picked Up by SCOTUS?

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 12, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

So you've decided to take your appellate practice to the next level. Assuming you got the practice off the ground in the first place, and you've mastered the skills it takes to win a federal appeal, you might be thinking it's time to take the big SCOTUS plunge.

But, even getting a case picked up by SCOTUS is a real trick, particularly for private attorneys. The U.S. Supreme Court bar has no shortage of members, but only a select few of the most active members of that bar handle a majority of the cases.

Here are a few practical tips to help you expand your appellate practice.

Potential Clients Are Not Mind Readers

If you have a website that describes your practice areas or interests, you should mention your interest in taking SCOTUS appeals. Even if you don't have experience, or never even had a case that was appealable, you can still seek admission to the Supreme Court bar.

Once admitted, you can list that admission on your online lawyer profiles and website. It takes some legwork, but the time and cost should increase your marketability and prestige to potential clients who aren't looking to file a SCOTUS appeal. Also, if you are already admitted, if you get that client who shows up with only a week left to file the petition, you might actually be able to do something for them.

Can't Win the Lotto If You Don't Buy a Ticket

If you have a case that merits SCOTUS review, you will have absolutely no chance at getting your case picked up if you don't file the petition for review. Yes, it's a procedural endurance test to put it together in just 90 days, but you can't win the lotto if you don't buy a ticket.

Steal Someone Else's Ticket

A growing practice among attorneys interested in taking cases up to the U.S. Supreme Court involves researching appellate cases that can be appealed, and reaching out to counsel and the parties. Protip: be cautious not to violate rules on solicitation when reaching out to parties, but never be worried about cold calling another attorney.

You might get lucky and the attorney or firm that handled the circuit appeal might not be interested in losing again, and thus might pass your name along as a legitimate referral (so practice that elevator speech). Alternatively, offering to help with a SCOTUS appeal on a pro bono basis could be your ticket into the life of luxury that the elite, repeat customers of the Supreme Court bar enjoy.

Start as a Friend

Filing an amicus brief is a great way to become known as a competent and respected attorney that's interested in SCOTUS work. Members of the SCOTUS bar, or other federal appellate bars, may take note and reach out to you for help, if you've put yourself out there.

Have an open position at your law firm? Post the job for free on Indeed, or search local candidate resumes.

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