What do fly fishing and appellate practice have in common? In his article, “Fly fishing and the appellate lawyering life,” Gary A. Watt, one of our certified appellate specialists and a fly fishing enthusiast, offers his thoughts on the subject.
Gary explains that both fly fishing and appellate work involve an ongoing effort to ask the right questions and find definitive answers. A fly fisher, for example, might ask, “Are fish feeding on the surface? If not, why not, and what next? If so, which of the dozens of varieties of insects are they eating? Which artificial fly most closely resembles the natural insect?” And so on. Similarly, an appellate attorney asks, “Where is the trial court error? Why is the error prejudicial, not merely harmless? Why does this case fall within the general rule and not the exception, or is it the other way around?” And whether you are a fly fisher or an appellate attorney, the answers to these questions are “best explored in quiet contemplation.” Gary notes that the more cerebral and serene nature of appellate work also distinguishes it from trial work, which has been “aptly described as combat.” Most of all, says Gary, both fly fishing and appellate lawyering involve “the study of complex puzzles and the search for perfection” aided by the luxury of time for such thorough scrutiny.