Board Certification

The following information is taken directly from the website of the
Texas Board of Legal Specialization

(See the listing on the Legal Links page)

What does "Board Certified" mean?

Board Certification is a voluntary designation program for attorneys [emphasis added] and legal assistants. Initial certification is valid for a period of five years. To remain certified, an attorney and legal assistant must apply for recertification every five years and meet substantial involvement, peer review and continuing legal education requirements for the specialty area.

To become Board Certified in a specialty area, an attorney must have:

Been licensed to practice law for at least five years;
Devoted a required percentage of practice to a specialty area for at least three years;
Handled a wide variety of matters in the area to demonstrate experience and involvement;
Attended continuing education seminars regularly to keep legal training up to date;
Been evaluated by fellow lawyers and judges;
Passed a 6-hour written examination.


In addition, the following information is quoted from the
Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct:

Rule 7.02  Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services

(a) A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the qualifications or the services of any lawyer or firm. A communication is false or misleading if it:

. . .

(5) designates one or more specific areas of practice in an advertisement in the public media or in a written solicitation unless the advertising lawyer is competent to handle legal matters in each such area of practice [emphasis added].

(b) Rule 7.02(a)(5) does not require that a lawyer be certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization at the time of advertising in a specific area of practice, but such certification shall conclusively establish that such lawyer satisfies the requirements of Rule 7.02(a)(5) with respect to the area(s) of practice in which such lawyer is certified [emphasis added].

Comment 5. Typically, one would expect competency to be measured by special education, training, or experience in the particular area of law designated. Because certification by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization involves special education, training, and experience, certification by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization conclusively establishes that a lawyer meets the requirements of Rule 7.02(a)(5) in any area in which the Board has certified the lawyer. However, competency may be established by means other than certification by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. See Rule 7.04(b) [emphasis added].

Rule 7.04  Advertisements in the Public Media

. . .

(b) A lawyer who advertises in the public media:

. . .

(3) shall state with respect to each area advertised in which the lawyer has not been awarded a Certificate of Special Competence by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Not Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. However, if an area of law so advertised has not been designated as an area in which a lawyer may be awarded a Certificate of Special Competence by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, the lawyer may also state, No designation has been made by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization for a Certificate of Special Competence in this area [emphasis added].

. . .


Statistics Regarding Board Certification:

According to statistics published by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, approximately 6,500 attorneys in Texas are Board Certified in at least one area of law. Given that there are now approximately 60,000 attorneys licensed to practice in Texas, this means that roughly one attorney in ten is Board Certified. In addition, fewer than six hundred attorneys in Texas are Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law.


Conclusion:

The preceding statements, rules and comments conclusively establish the proposition that the lack of Board Certification should not, by itself, be taken to mean your attorney is not qualified to represent you. In fact, the vast majority of Texas attorneys are not Board Certified. Because Board Certification is strictly voluntary, the lack of Board Certification may mean nothing more than that the attorney, for whatever reason, has declined to apply for certification. Nevertheless, attorneys are required to state whether they are Board Certified in most advertisements in the public media.

Whether your particular circumstances dictate that only the services of a Board Certified attorney will be sufficient, is a question that only you can answer. The foregoing discussion is here only to give you some perspective in making your decision.


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