The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Charlotte Taylor, Partner—Issues & Appeals
Charlotte Taylor focuses on appellate advocacy and critical motions practice. Since joining Jones Day, she has handled cases in both federal and state courts of appeals, as well as at the U.S. Supreme Court. Charlotte has particular experience with preemption and constitutional challenges to state laws, class certification issues, and multijurisdiction litigation strategy. She also has substantial criminal-defense experience and was part of the team that brought United States v. McDonnell from federal district court to victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. Charlotte has an extensive pro bono practice as well. She has litigated multiple pro bono habeas corpus cases before federal courts of appeals, and her work on a Texas child-custody appeal was recognized by the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project as part of the 2016 Pro Bono Team of the Year.
Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.
The practices of Jones Day’s Issues & Appeals lawyers are diverse—spanning substantive areas from bankruptcy to intellectual property to administrative law to criminal defense—but the common denominator is handling complex legal questions. Often working alongside our litigators, Issues & Appeals lawyers provide analytical perspective and thinking on issues that can make or break a case. Issues & Appeals lawyers put our skills to work in appellate-brief writing and oral advocacy in state and federal courts of appeals as well as before the U.S. Supreme Court. But we also provide analysis and tactical insight to clients from the outset. Before litigation has even commenced, we partner with our litigation teams, outlining strategy and weighing possible outcomes. And at the trial-court level, Issues & Appeals lawyers work with the trial team to plan and execute an optimal briefing strategy. We also often consult on fact development—all to ensure that the key issues are properly developed and preserved for appeal. It is a soup-to-nuts practice.
What types of clients do you represent?
I work with a wide variety of past and present Jones Day clients, including an air ambulance company with nationwide operations; former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell; H&R Block; and, in a pro bono matter, a Texas mother who is trying to retain custody of her child.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
My practice is characterized by a high proportion of varied and complex matters proceeding in multiple jurisdictions and through multiple levels of review. For example, we are representing an air ambulance provider pursuing a nationwide litigation strategy based on preemption under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (“ADA”). The client has sued state officials in several jurisdictions and is engaged in administrative proceedings in several others, arguing that the ADA precludes states from regulating its rates. We have had significant successes in the federal courts, e.g., Air Evac EMS, Inc. v. Texas, Dep’t of Ins. (5th Cir. 2017); Air Evac EMS, Inc. v. Cheatham (S.D.W. Va. 2017); and in several states we are in the midst of follow-up proceedings to put our federal-court victories to work. We have also been defendants in related consumer class actions and have successfully asserted ADA preemption in that context, as well. E.g., Schneberger v. Air Evac EMS, Inc., (W.D. Okla. 2017). At last count, these air ambulance cases involved more than a dozen related matters. As these related matters make their way forward, it has been essential to maintain a coherent strategy across different venues and jurisdictions.
In a similar vein, our work has sometimes involved defending parallel state and federal class actions. In one case we were simultaneously litigating in a state trial court, in a federal court of appeals, and before the U.S. Supreme Court. And in United States v. McDonnell, I was part of a team that brought the case from the trial court—where we suffered repeated setbacks but carefully preserved our claims of error—through the court of appeals, and all the way to victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. That case was an object lesson in how to take the long view when planning and carrying out a litigation strategy.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
I am drawn to difficult legal issues, and I enjoy days spent researching and writing—but I wanted a practice that was not limited to appellate advocacy. I had the opportunity to clerk for three remarkable jurists at three different levels in the federal judicial system: Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York, Judge Robert Katzmann of the Second Circuit, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court. Each clerkship was an education of a different kind, and together they taught me that advocacy at each level has its own challenges and rewards. I love the process of shepherding an issue from the trial court through the court of appeals and, in many cases, to the highest court. Jones Day’s Issues & Appeals Practice offered precisely that opportunity.
What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?
A typical day is spent researching, writing, and talking to colleagues to work through issues and develop strategy for our cases. But there’s a huge variety in how I spend my days. Some days, client counseling takes much of my time. Other days, I do moots for Issues & Appeals lawyers who are preparing for an oral argument, or I may be preparing for an argument myself. And in recruiting season, I commonly interview or meet with lawyers who are interested in joining our practice.
What is the best thing about your practice area?
I love that it is my job to get to the bottom of tough legal issues. Every case presents a fresh puzzle, and the challenge is constantly engrossing. But perhaps the best thing about my practice is the day-to-day interchange with my many colleagues who help me work through questions with intelligence and good humor.
What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?
Keeping clear large blocks of time for research and writing! There is no way to shortcut the thinking needed to really get on top of a question and make the clearest, most forceful presentation to the court. And with so many opportunities to get involved in interesting matters, it’s essential to be vigilant about scheduling.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Clerkship experience is the most commonly mentioned preparation for this practice, and it is undeniably valuable. Not only does it help develop writing and analytic skills, it provides essential insight into the courts where we practice. But any training which really pushes you to be a better writer is an asset. I have a Ph.D. in English, and although that experience is not obviously germane to, say, litigating a federal preemption issue, those years of education in what makes for good writing definitely help me on a day-to-day basis. I also think it’s a good idea to develop reliable methods of staying on top of legal developments in the U.S. Supreme Court and courts of appeals.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?
One misconception is that it is an isolating practice. The reality is that a large part of every day is spent talking to colleagues and clients about issues which come up and how best to address them. At Jones Day in particular, because there are so many talented Issues & Appeals lawyers and because the atmosphere is so collegial, appellate litigation is surprisingly collaborative and social.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm, and how has it evolved since you have been at the firm?
Jones Day’s Issues & Appeals Practice is strongly committed to recruiting the most promising lawyers and growing the practice with the expectation that if we build it, the work will come. Over the past five years, for example, we have hired more outgoing Supreme Court clerks than any other law firm. We also consistently hire outgoing appeals-court clerks from around the country. Although I have heard some buzz among commentators that we will be oversupplied with talent, that is not the case—quite the opposite. Our lawyers have many opportunities for exciting work, and clients appreciate the value of our deep “bench.” I think the commitment to breadth bespeaks our group’s overall ethos, which is to support lawyers as they develop their strengths. This is not a practice that has been built around a few superstars. The assumption is that if we have many lawyers doing high quality work, our clients will be well-served and our lawyers will have terrific opportunities.
What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?
I recently ran the New York Marathon, and I usually do one or two shorter races each year. But outside the office, my primary focus is spending time with my two young daughters and my husband. I make it a priority to be home for dinner and bedtime every night, so I don’t lose the thread of what is happening in my girls’ lives.