D. Todd Smith

D. Todd Smith

D. Todd Smith has devoted his two-decade legal career to civil appellate practice. Serving as an intern to a federal circuit judge and as law review editor-in-chief sparked his interest in appellate work, and two years as a Texas Supreme Court briefing attorney solidified it. From there, Todd moved on to Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. (now Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP), where he learned from some of the best-regarded appellate lawyers in Texas. In 2006, he started a boutique firm—now known as Smith Law Group LLLP—that has grown to four lawyers handling appeals and providing litigation support to trial lawyers and their clients statewide.

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Election 2016: Some New Faces on Texas Appellate Courts

As in recent cycles, Republican incumbents and open-seat candidates for Texas appellate benches generally fared well in the 2016 general election. South Texas was the notable exception. The election will not change the Texas Supreme Court’s composition—at least not directly—as incumbent Justices Paul Green, Eva Guzman, and Debra Lehrmann all retained their seats. Donald Trump’s … Continue Reading

How I’m Using My iPad Pro for Appellate Arguments

I just completed my second Fifth Circuit argument using my big iPad Pro in a more prominent role than ever before. Inspired by Jeff Richardson’s post about how he used an iPad to prepare for and present an appellate argument, I thought I’d share how I’ve integrated the device into my preparation and presentation strategy. Documents … Continue Reading

Confessions of a Litigation-Support Lawyer

I have a confession to make: I’m doing a lot of litigation-support work these days. And I like it. In one context, the phrase “litigation support”—like “contract lawyer“—can have an almost-negative connotation. It might imply document review, presentation assistance, or other services that are not high revenue generators or don’t require a law license at all. The phrase has … Continue Reading

Using the Evaluative Approach in Appellate Mediation

Last week, I spoke to the Austin Bar Association ADR Section about mediating cases on appeal. In my talk, I explored the differences in perspective between pre-trial mediation, in which most everything is in flux, and post-trial or appellate mediation, where a party has usually won or lost and the variables have shifted toward certainty. … Continue Reading

Soaking Up Some CLE

I spoke today at TexasBarCLE’s Soaking Up Some CLE Program on South Padre Island—one of my favorite places to visit. My topic was “Jury Charges in Commercial Cases.” For anyone interested, my slidedeck appears here. Today was the first time I’ve presented on this particular topic. As always, I learned a lot getting ready for … Continue Reading

An Appellate Lawyer Walks Into a Bar…

No, the headline isn’t a lead-in for an appellate lawyer joke. In all seriousness, I’m announcing my nomination to run for treasurer of the Austin Bar Association. This race will be contested, as one other candidate was also nominated to appear on the ballot. Election as treasurer would put me on a path to becoming Austin … Continue Reading

The Value of Second Opinions

Recently, Patrick Lamb of In Search of Perfect Client Service asked how often in-house counsel seek a second opinion about strategy. (Rarely, it seems.) Drawing on medical statistics, he noted that 50% of Americans do not get second opinions for important medical diagnoses, but among those who do, the second opinion leads to changes in the … Continue Reading

Practicing Bathtub Law

It may sound strange, but I practice bathtub law. I don’t present myself as an expert in any substantive legal topic. To the contrary, as I wrote here several years ago: Appellate lawyers are perhaps the last of the generalists.  Although appellate practice has gained notoriety as a specialty, it focuses less on the substantive law than on the lawyer’s … Continue Reading

We’re All Contract Appellate Lawyers

Every so often, I hear about someone looking for a “contract appellate lawyer” to help with a particular case. Most of these inquiries are from other attorneys, but they sometimes come directly from the person in need of legal services. A contract is fundamental to the relationships that provide business to appellate lawyers. In that sense, … Continue Reading

Continuing to Evolve

Readers may have noticed some changes around here. Allow me to tie them together with a brief explanation. New Design More and more users are accessing the internet through smartphones or tablets—a trend that is sure to continue. My friends at LexBlog have thus rebuilt the site to be mobile-friendly. I am very pleased with the simple … Continue Reading

Social Media for Lawyers—and Judges

Yesterday, I spoke to a group of appellate lawyers and judges about social media. For anyone interested, my presentation slides appear below. I always learn something new when preparing to give a CLE presentation. In this instance, it was interesting to look at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and similar outlets from a judge’s perspective. Here are … Continue Reading

As Summer Ends, a New Appellate Season Begins

With the sun setting on summer, early September is shaping up to be a busy time for Texas appellate practitioners and court watchers. Texas Supreme Court Returns from Summer Recess Although the Texas Supreme Court will issue orders every Friday in August and hold conference late in the month, it is caught up on opinions … Continue Reading

Appellate Practice and Procedure Lesson 8: Tips and Strategies for Marketing an Appellate Practice

This post features the video and slides for the eighth and final lecture in my Appellate Practice and Procedure course. The presentation appears after the jump. Appellate law can be a very difficult practice area to break into. Because legal writing ability is an absolute necessity, those with law review and judicial clerkship experience have … Continue Reading

Appellate Practice and Procedure Lesson 7: Rehearing and Higher Court Review

This post features the video and slides for the seventh lecture in my Appellate Practice and Procedure course, which I introduced here. The presentation appears after the jump. How do you convince an appellate court to change its mind when it’s already ruled against you? Merely repeating arguments you’ve already made will not do. Motions … Continue Reading

What a Legal-Writing Professor Wishes He’d Known as a New Lawyer

In this month’s Austin Lawyer, UT Law Professor Wayne Schiess published a short piece (also available here) pointing out four things he wishes he’d known about legal writing when he finished law school. I was struck by his first three points. Law Is a Writing Profession Professor Schiess posits that lawyers are professional writers rather … Continue Reading
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