Board certified means that an attorney is certified to have special competence in the field of personal injury trial law. Folks who have been injured or killed as a result of negligence should consult a lawyer who specializes in this area. To even apply for board certification, a lawyer in personal injury trial law must have been practicing law for 5 years, and must have tried at least 14 cases in this field.
I have found that most folks assume that lawyers who advertise for Personal Injury cases are board certified. However, the Texas State Bar does not require a lawyer to be board certified to practice in any area. Therefore, a lawyer who has never handled a personal injury case has the legal right to advertise for these cases, and represent you. Pretty amazing, but true.
How would you like to go in for brain surgery, and find out your doctor has never performed a single operation, much less a brain surgery? Pretty frightening, huh? Fortunately, in medicine, most specialists in the field are board certified in the field they practice. Rarely, do you find a heart surgeon, brain surgeon, internal medicine doctor, ENT doctor and so forth who is not board certified. Thus, the field of law is different than the field of medicine.
In addition to being a practicing lawyer for at least five years, and trying 14 jury trials, the minimum qualifications to be board certified are:
•the lawyer must devote a high percentage of practice to personal injury cases for the past three years;
• the lawyer must have handled a wide variety of personal injury cases, such as auto accidents, truck accidents, offshore accidents, dangerous product cases, medical malpractice cases, etc;
•the lawyer must have 125 hours of continuing legal education every 5 years in personal injury trial law. ( non-certified lawyers only need 15 per year);
•the lawyer’s skills, character, and ethics must be evaluated by judges and lawyers who know the candidate well;
• the lawyer must have passed a very tough, day-long written examination.
The board of independent examiners who certify lawyers in a particular field is appointed by the State Bar of Texas and is under the authority of the Supreme Court of Texas. They certify the lawyer for the initial term of 5 years, then certify the lawyer again to make sure he or she still meets the qualifications. Only lawyers who have been Board Certified can mention it to the public, or advertise that they are board certified in particular field. Otherwise, they cannot. Fewer than 1 % of lawyers in Texas are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law.
Joe Stephens has 26 years experience, has tried over 100 jury trials, and attends about 200 hours of continuing legal education over a 5 year period. He also is board certified in the related field of Civil Trial Law by the National Board of Trial Advocates.
More General Personal Injury FAQ
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