The Volokh Conspiracy has a couple of interesting posts on this subject. (Hat tip to How Appealing.) Unsurprisingly, participation in law review and a judicial clerkship are emphasized as the first steps to breaking into appellate practice. Other suggestions include going to work for a large firm with the goal of lateraling to an appellate boutique after gaining real-world litigation experience.
This is an extremely competitive practice area, especially with the downturn in litigation that has occurred over the past several years. Law students and young lawyers interested in appellate work should realize that it won’t just come to them, even if they work for a big firm. Once they commit to appellate practice as a goal, they need to differentiate themselves (this is where law review and judicial clerkships can make the difference) and gain the trust and confidence of those in a position to send appellate matters their way.