People think that if you are an attorney, you are Board Certified. That is incorrect. If you are an attorney, you are licensed to practice law but you are certainly not Board Certified. Board certification is a rare distinction and it is considered a career-defining achievement. Only Board Certified lawyers are allowed, by the State Bar of Texas, to publicly represent themselves as a specialist or expert in a certain area of the law.
Just to illustrate how rare it is, consider that there are well over 90,000 licensed attorneys in Texas and LESS THAN 1% are Board Certified in Criminal Law.
Board certification is granted designation granted by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS). The TBLS was established in 1974 by the Supreme Court of Texas and it certifies lawyers that have substantial, relevant expertise in select areas of the law. Board Certified lawyers must commit to substantial continuing legal education, verify that he/she has been lead counsel in multiple felony and misdemeanor jury trials and must also pass a rigorous examination.
Board Certification is entirely voluntary. In order to be allowed to even sit for the comprehensive, all-day Board Certification for Criminal Law exam, a person must be voted in by a committee and the committee will consider if the applicant has:
- Practiced law full time for at least 5 years
- Devoted a substantial portion of his/her practice to Criminal Law
- Handled a substantial number of Criminal Law matters involving State and Federal felonies, felony jury trials, misdemeanor jury trials, State and Federal appeals
- Received references from judges and lawyers in the area
- Completed a substantial amount of TBLS-approved continuing legal education (CLE)
Finally, Board Certification must be renewed periodically. In order to maintain Board Certification, a lawyer must complete a substantial amount of CLE hours over a non-board certified lawyer. The additional CLE hours helps keep the Board Certified lawyer abreast of the changes and trends in Criminal Law. Board Certified lawyers must also periodically receive letters of recommendation from peers in the field of Criminal Law.
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