Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with Kenneth R. White, the founder of the Law Office of Kenneth R. White, to discuss his niche practice and his outlook on the industry. For five years, White served as an assistant county attorney in Nicollet before launching his private practice focused on civil litigation. In addition to his active practice, White also teaches appellate advocacy at University of St. Thomas School of Law.
AALM: Explain how you came to focus your practice on research and writing appeals.
KRW: When I began with a Mankato law firm, my partners quickly realized I was an excellent writer and capable of handling oral arguments. I argued my first Supreme Court case four years out of law school. Since opening my own practice, I increasingly just handle research and writing projects and appeals. I work with other lawyers to address motions or legal issues which arise in their cases; and I handle appeals largely on referral. Sometimes I ghostwrite, but other times I am more formally associated. I often handle the oral argument, which I greatly enjoy.
The real joy in my practice is looking at the existing law and seeing if there is a way to improve it within the framework of the particular case. To be able to develop an argument for a change in the law, or to maintain the existing law, and see it through to the final court opinions is a great challenge and leads to great personal satisfaction.
AALM: What are the reasons to hire a research and writing attorney?
KRW: I provide a fresh set of eyes which may spot strengths or weaknesses in the case. All of us can, at times, develop “tunnel vision” and a new look at a case from a different perspective may lead to new and fruitful avenues of argument. Since this is what I do, I am efficient in getting from the initial review to the finished product. It saves the referring lawyer time and often the client expense. I also do appeals, so I can make sure that what may be needed on appeal gets in the record.
AALM: What are the reasons to hire an experienced appellate attorney?
KRW: The way you present a case to a jury is dramatically different than the way you present a case to the appellate courts. The focus is much more on the law on appeal, rather than the facts of greatest concern to a jury. The appellate brief is much more than a recycling of the trial court arguments. They must be presented within the nuances of appellate review – fundamental issues like the scope and standard of review. The appellate rules and deadlines raise a new set of challenges for an attorney, especially one with a busy trial practice. Since my practice is built around those deadlines, I worry less about those issues.
AALM: Share about your role as an adjunct professor, and your memberships in other organizations.
KRW: I teach the appellate advocacy class at St. Thomas Law School. I am always learning to be a better instructor and how to be a better appellate lawyer. Being selected as a fellow to the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers and Litigation Council of American give me additional opportunities to hone my craft. I believe that these selections along with my repeated selection to Super Lawyers, demonstrate the quality of my work and the respect I have gained from my peers.