Board Certified is not mandatory in the state of Texas. Attorneys who have become Board Certified means they voluntarily decide to become specialized. Only a little more than ten percent of Texas attorneys are Board Certified. Because the Texas program is nationally recognized as one of the most outstanding legal specialization programs in the country, many states send representatives to Austin for help in setting up their own specialization programs.
To become board certified in one of the eighteen recognized fields, an attorney must have been practicing law in Texas full-time for five years. In addition, that attorney must have practiced in the specialized area for at least three years and devote a certain percentage of his practice to that area.
The candidate for certification must also provide the Board with the names of judges and attorneys who are familiar with the attorney and his actual experience in that area. The Board may also go to other judges and lawyers to obtain more information about the candidate. The attorney applying for Board Certification must have completed sixty hours of approved Continuing Legal Education courses in the area of specialization within a prescribed time period. And finally, and most important of all, the candidate must pass a rigorous six-hour examination to demonstrate his knowledge of the law in that specialty. Successful candidates are certified for five years.
Like Board Certified Medical Specialists, Board Certified Attorneys are not expected to be infallible. The Supreme Court only wants the attorney to demonstrate “special competence” in the selected area. The purpose of Board Certification is to help the public find an attorney who is experienced in tax matters, bankruptcy, personal injury, or any of the other recognized areas of specialization.
Even after an attorney receives a certificate of special competence, he must reapply every five years for re-certification. While no exam is required, the attorney must attend at least 100 hours of Continuing Legal Education in that particular field and submit the names of judges and attorneys who are familiar with him in his field of specialization. The applicant for re-certification must attest that he devoted a minimum percentage of his total practice to the specialty in each of the past five years. The disclaimer in the ads is to prevent the public from assuming that a non-certified attorney is certified just because he practices a particular specialty. With the rigorous requirements to become certified, it is easy to see why the Texas program of specialization is so esteemed throughout the nation. Attorneys who fulfill the requirements have demonstrated an exceptionally high level of dedication and competence in their clients’ representation.