What is a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Law Attorney?
What does it mean to be a board certified personal injury attorney? The public is constantly exposed to television commercials in which attorneys state that are (or are not) board certified in personal injury trial law. Does board certification mean that a lawyer is better than one who is not? Is board certification easy to obtain?
Board certification does not guarantee that an attorney is better than one not board certified. What it does mean is that the attorney met the requirements for certification, made it through the evaluation and peer-review process and passed the exam. All applicants for any board certification in Texas must be members in good standing with the Texas State Bar Association. They must have been practicing law for at least five years and must disclose any prior disciplinary sanctions or criminal convictions.
To be eligible for board certification in personal injury trial law, the attorney must demonstrate his or her substantial involvement in personal injury trial law, provide professional references that can attest to their competence and pass a written examination.
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization requires that board certification candidates show that during the three years prior to their application they have devoted at least 25% of their practice to personal injury trial law. Furthermore, they must have tried at least 10 contested civil cases submitted to the trier of fact (judge or jury) of a court of record (above JP court) in Texas. At least five of the cases must have been personal injury jury trials. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization defines Personal Injury Trial Law as including, "By way of inclusion and not limitation, personal injury litigation automobile and other vehicular accident reparations, worker’s compensation; other governmental claims; professional malpractice; products liability, statutory claims; social security claims; insurance contract claims; or any negligent or intentional tort." Thus the practice of personal injury trial law is broadly defined to include any claims for damages resulting from intentional or negligent conduct.
To be eligible for board certification, the candidate must submit references to vouch for their competence in personal injury trial law. Four must be lawyers – one of which must have tried a case against the applicant. The fifth must be a Texas judge before whom the applicant has appeared as an advocate in a personal injury trial law matter.
If the applicant makes it through the application process regarding showing substantial involvement and providing adequate references, he or she may be permitted to sit for the day long examination in personal injury trial law administered by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
If they make it through the application process and pass the examination, board certified lawyers must maintain their active involvement in personal injury trial law and participate in additional continuing legal education courses.