The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Anton Metlitsky, Partner—Appellate Litigation
Anton Metlitsky is an accomplished lawyer recognized for his diversified legal experience, which focuses on appellate and complex litigation matters. Anton joined O’Melveny in 2008, following clerkships with DC Circuit Judge Merrick B. Garland and Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and became a partner in 2016. Since being named a Rising Star by Law360 in 2013, Anton has continued to raise his profile, playing an increasingly critical role in some of the firm’s most high-profile appellate work covering a broad range of industries and issues and earning recognition as a 2018 National Law Journal Litigation Trailblazer along the way. He is also a thought leader in the space, having authored multiple articles and participated in panel discussions concerning various topics of federal law and Supreme Court litigation.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Appellate practice obviously includes preparing briefs for appellate courts (and presenting oral arguments), but “appellate” is really a misnomer because members of our practice group are heavily involved in brief writing, argument, and legal strategy at every level, including dispositive legal motions (e.g., motions to dismiss or summary judgment motions), motions in limine and trial motions, appellate briefs, and petitions and merits cases before the Supreme Court.
What types of clients do you represent?
My clients span from large corporations, such as American Airlines and Bank of America, to nonprofit organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce and the ACLU, to individual litigants. I represent many of my nonprofit and individual clients pro bono.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
One of the things I love about my practice is the variety of types of cases. This past year, I worked on cases in the Supreme Court involving class actions, voting rights, immigration law, and administrative law; appeals involving (among many other issues) antitrust law, patent law, and takings law; and trial litigation involving insurance law and the False Claims Act.
How did you choose this practice area?
After law school and two clerkships, it was clear to me that what I loved most about legal practice was developing and framing legal arguments. I also realized that I was interested in many areas of law and was not ready to specialize in any particular area. Appellate practice is, at its core, about understanding complex legal issues in often-specialized subject areas and presenting them clearly and persuasively to generalist judges. Given my interests, it was obvious to me that I’d enjoy this practice.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
One great thing about my practice is that each day is different. Sometimes I’ll spend most of the day working on an appellate brief. Or I might be in court. Or I may attend a strategy meeting with clients. The variety is what keeps it interesting. But I would say that most of my time is spent on trial or appellate briefing.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
I don’t know if there are any actual prerequisites for my practice. I think a clerkship is a great thing to do and provides a valuable experience (and, hopefully, a long-term relationship with a judge). The most important thing, though, is to work on your writing. That is true for any litigation-based practice, but it is especially true of appellate work.
What do you like best about your practice area?
I love the variety—I am at any given time working on a myriad of matters in many different areas of law. I also love that I have the opportunity to frame legal arguments in some of the most significant litigation in the country, including at the highest levels of our judicial system.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
The biggest misconception about our practice is that it is limited to actual appeals. In fact, our appellate practice is really a legal issues and brief writing practice. We practice at all levels of the court system, from trial courts to the Supreme Court.
How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?
There is already a trend of appellate specialists participating from the earliest stages of litigation to help guide legal strategy and ensure that issues are well presented on appeal. I expect that trend to continue and accelerate.
What is your routine for preparing for oral arguments?
I, of course, spend a lot of time studying the briefing, record, and case law. But for me, there are two additional, critical aspects of argument prep. First, I try to do at least two moot courts with “judges” who are completely new to the case. That allows me to understand what someone just coming to the matter (like a judge) is likely to find important and what questions are likely to be asked at argument. It also allows me to fine-tune the answers to those questions. Second, I spend a lot of time in the few days before the argument actually practicing answering questions out loud over and over again—the hope is that by the time the actual argument comes around, the answers to questions are a matter of muscle memory.