What is a Board Certified Attorney?
Not All Attorneys Are the Same
A board certified attorney in the state of Texas is an attorney who has been certified within his or her particular area of practice by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. The Board is a part of the State Bar of Texas, which is the entity that licenses all attorneys to practice law in the State of Texas.
What is Required to Become a Board Certified Attorney in Family Law?
The certification process for attorneys who want to become board certified in family law takes two steps: the application and written examination. The attorney must initiate the application process, but, unless the attorney meets the minimum requirements, he or she will not be permitted to sit for the written examination.
What Are the Basic Qualifications to Become a Board Certified Family Law Attorney?
To become board certified in a specialty area such as family law, 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
- Regularly attended educational seminars to keep legal training up to date
- Been evaluated by fellow lawyers and judges
- Passed a six-hour written examination
What Are the Basic Qualifications to Become a Board Certified Attorney in Family Law?
In addition to the requirements noted above, a board certified family law attorney must have:
The attorney, prior to application, must have participated as lead counsel for a party within the three years immediately preceding application and had:
- A total of at least nine contested final trials or binding arbitrations in Texas family law cases where issues were determined by a finder of fact in a court of record, excluding default judgments. At least four of the trials must have involved issues of property division, and at least four of the trials must have involved the determination or modification of child custody.
- At least 30 contested Texas family law matters involving issues pertaining to:
- The marriage relationship
- Children in relation to the family
- Protective orders and family violence or the parent-child relationship and suits affecting the parent-child relationship.
In addition to the above, the attorney must also meet two of the following three requirements, within the immediately preceding three years to become board certified in family law:
- Participated in two Texas civil jury trials at the county court at law or district court level, with one involving family law, submitted to the jury for decision
- Participated in one Texas civil appeal involving family law, in which briefs were filed by that attorney
- Conducted or participated in at least 10 Texas mediations involving family law either as an attorney representing a litigant or as a mediator.
An attorney may be permitted to substitute unusual or exceptional experience for one or more of the specific area requirements stated above.
In addition to the points of experience notated above, the attorney must also:
- Provide at least 10 references who the attorney has personally dealt with in a family law matter in the immediately preceding three years. Five of the 10 references should be the attorneys dealt with in a family law matter who are not current partners or associates, including:
- Three Texas attorneys
- One Texas attorney who was the opposing counsel; either in the litigation, hearing or negotiation of a family law matter
- One judge of any court of record in Texas before whom the attorney appeared as an advocate in a family law matter
- The additional five references should be a representative list of judges and/or attorneys who the applicant dealt with in a Texas family law matter.
In addition to the experience and reference points listed above, the attorney must also show that he or she has continued proficiency by attending legal education classes after becoming licensed to practice law. That means he or she must complete a minimum of 60 hours of continuing legal education in the specialty area with a maximum of 30 hours per year, which may include up to five hours of self-study per calendar year.
The attorney must disclose if he or she has:
- Suffered any disciplinary sanction, including disbarment, resignation, private reprimand, public reprimand, order of rehabilitation, probated suspension, active suspension or combined suspension
- Received a finding of “just cause” from a grievance committee of the State Bar of Texas or a similar designated entity in another state that would tend to show the attorney has violated some canon of professional conduct
- Disclosed if the attorney has been indicted, charged or convicted of some type of criminal conduct (whether deferred or not) or fined for a serious crime
- Disclosed if the attorney has been sued for malpractice or other private civil action alleging attorney misconduct, which had concluded against the attorney by settlement, dismissal or judgment within five years preceding the application. This requirement also includes a finding by a court that the attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel in a criminal matter.
Additionally, the attorney must show that during each of the three years immediately preceding the application, the attorney devoted a minimum of 35 percent of time in the his or her practice to dealing with Texas family law matters.
What is Involved in the Examination Process?
After payment of the required fees, the attorney must prepare for a written examination. The examination of the applicant tests within the specialty area covering knowledge, skills and subject matter within the particular discipline. The examination process takes all day on the applicable subject matter. After the written examination, the attorney must receive a passing score. Examinations are administered only one day each year.
How Many Attorneys Are Board Certified in Family Law?
The State Bar of Texas, Department of Research and Analysis, reported on December 31, 2012 that there are 92,210 attorneys licensed to practice law in Texas. Of all licensed Texas attorneys, 7,131 are board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in some area of legal specialization. Of all licensed Texas attorneys, 6,377 belong to the Family Law Section of the State Bar. Of all licensed Texas attorneys, only 753 are board certified in family law, representing less than 1% of all licensed attorneys in Texas. Burrows Law Group is proud to have a board certified family law specialist on our legal team. Give us a call today to set up a consultation for your legal matter pertaining to family law.