What is a Board Certified Attorney?
(Should You Hire One?)
We’re often ask by clients what “board certification” means. Why are some lawyers board certified? For instance, what is the difference between a civil trial attorney and someone who is a board certified civil trial attorney?
This a good question. There is a big distinction when someone takes the steps to earn board certification in a specialty area of law.
Just as doctors and dentists focus on a specialty area of medicine or dentistry in which they develop expertise, attorneys may choose to specialize in a specific area of law.
While some large firms are general or “full service,” none of us can excel in every field of law. So whether a specialty is in disability insurance law, civil trial law or criminal law, insightful attorneys naturally gravitate to devoting their practice to serving clients in one or two principal areas.
This idea of legal specialization increases an attorney’s ability to best serve the public. All lawyers must be licensed to practice. Board certification, however, is voluntary.
This article clarifies what it means to be a “board certified attorney.” Why some attorneys take this step, how it works, and what it means for you, the consumer.
To begin, please view the short videos shared through one prominent “board certification” accrediting organization, the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA).
Why Board Certification?
Why Choose a Board Certified Attorney?
So what does board certified mean for a lawyer?
Lawyers who pursue board certification strive to meet the highest standards of practice in their field.
An attorney who has attained board certification from an accredited group such as the National Board of Trial Advocacy has demonstrated that he or she meets or exceeds levels of professional excellence in a specialty area of law.
Those attorneys are able to market themselves as specialists in those specifics practice areas. The goal is true specialist proficiency – tested and approved by rigorous peer review – and not a marketing gimmick.
The NBTA maintains a directory of their board certified lawyers. Also most state bar websites feature those attorneys who apply for and receive certification though their state bar.
What does board certified mean for a consumer?
It’s good to know the lawyer you hired specializes in the area of law that pertains to your case. Through their board certification program, the NBTA assists the public in selecting qualified lawyers.
Before the first consultation, a person seeking a board certified attorney’s counsel can generally have confidence in some key attributes:
- The attorney is highly motivated and dedicated to his or her area of practice;
- The attorney is committed to being a better lawyer, surpassing general requirements of licensure, and has proved this to the NBTA;
- Other attorneys, colleagues and judges hold the lawyer in high esteem.
The better the public understands the vigorous process of board certification, the more they will realize it to be a designation of professional development.
How Does a Lawyer become NBTA certified?
A lawyer earns this career achievement by
- passing a written examination (far beyond the bar exam) evaluating the attorney’s knowledge of the substantive and procedural law in the specialty area
- demonstrating his or her active and meaningful involvement in the area of legal specialty
- participating in continuing legal education in the specific area of law
- submitting to objective peer review by ten to twelve satisfactory attorney references who have substantial involvement in the specialty field of law, and at least three references being judges before which the applying attorney has tried legal matters in the specialty legal area
- demonstrating proficiency in legal writing
What are the specialty programs for NBTA board certification?
- Certification of Social Security Disability Advocates
- Certification of Civil Pretrial Practice
- Certification of Civil Trial Advocates
- Certification of Criminal Advocates
- Certification of Family Law Advocates
Read more about representation from a board certified Social Security Disability Advocate.
If the NBTA accredits the lawyer, who accredits the NBTA?
Who certifies the certifiers? The American Bar Association (ABA).1
The ABA’s initiatives are many, including making sure the public has access to the highest quality legal services. To facilitate this, ABA supports and promotes programs that improve legal education, ethical conduct and professionalism.
With that responsibility, the American Bar Association is the body that oversees law school accreditation, Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs for attorneys, and specialty certification accreditation programs for lawyers in particular fields of law.
The NBTA is therefore certified by the ABA to certify lawyers as specialists.
NBTA must also apply every five years with the ABA for re-accreditation to prove its competence as an accrediting organization for specific legal areas.
State Bars and other groups also offer specialty certification accreditation opportunities, under the facilitation of the ABA.
Speak with Board Certified Disability Attorney Marc Whitehead
Learn more about why our firm is the right choice in Disability Law.