What does it mean to be Board Certified?
Within the Texas legal community, Board Certification means that an attorney has substantial, relevant experience in a select field of law; as well as demonstrated, and tested, special competence in that area of law. In other words, board certified attorneys are among the most experienced and most capable of attorneys in a certain area of the law.
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization was established in 1974 by the Supreme Court of Texas at the request of the State Bar of Texas. The TBLS is the only governing board authorized to certify attorneys in legal specialty areas. It is the TBLS that determines which attorneys are qualified to be “board certified” in one of the twenty recognized specialty areas.
Board Certified lawyers have earned the right to publicly represent themselves as a specialist in a select area of the law. In fact, they are the only attorneys allowed by the State Bar of Texas to do so. This designation sets them apart as being an attorney with the highest, public commitment to excellence in their chosen area of law.
Moreover, Board Certification is not just a one-time event. It requires an ongoing involvement in the specialty area which is periodically substantiated with references from peers in that field. This means that a board certified attorney must be recognized by his or her fellow criminal law attorneys as having special competence in the chosen area of law. It also requires annual professional refreshment through TBLS approved, continuing legal education course work to stay abreast of current trends in the specialty area of law. This is additional continuing legal education required of a board certified attorney each year over-and-above what other, non-certified, attorneys are required to have.
Overall, Texas has approximately 75,000 attorneys who are licensed to practice law in this state. Of those, though, only 844 have earned the right to be publicly recognized as Board Certified in Criminal Law. Among those select 844 criminal law specialists, three are judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, six are justices on the Courts of Appeal, 53 are trial court judges, and the remaining 782 are attorneys (both prosecutors and defense attorneys).