What is Board Certified in Civil Trial or Personal Injury Trial Law & What are the Requirements?

Lawyer Advertising in Colorado Regarding
"Specialization"

Many successful lawyers seek to distinguish themselves by becoming board certified in various areas of law. The State of Colorado's Rule of Professional conduct Rule 7.4 sets rules for lawyers who wish to advertise that they have a "specialty" or "specialize" in a particular area of law.

Though many states have certification programs or specialization programs in various areas of law, Colorado has elected not to offer specialization programs to its members. However, Colorado, like other jurisdictions that do not have specialization programs, does recognize that there are organizations that do offer programs that offer a specialization recognition. If a lawyer licensed in Colorado wishes to apply for such a specialization and obtains it, that is permissible. However, if that lawyer wishes to advertise or place that specialization where the public can be exposed to it, that lawyer must adhere to the requirements of Rule 7.4. These requirements are as follows:

RULE 7.4. COMMUNICATION OF FIELDS OF PRACTICE

 (a) A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law or that the lawyer is a specialist in particular fields of law. Such communication shall be in accordance with Rule 7.1.
 (b) A lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office may use the designation "Patent Attorney" or a substantially similar designation.
 (c) A lawyer engaged in admiralty practice may use the designation “admiralty,” “proctor in admiralty” or a substantially similar designation.
 (d) A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless:
(1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and
(2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.
(e) In any advertisement in which a lawyer affirmatively claims to be certified in any area of the law, such advertisement shall contain the following disclosure: "Colorado does not certify lawyers as specialists in any field." This disclaimer is not required where the information concerning the lawyer's services is contained in a law list, law directory or a publication intended primarily for use of the legal profession.

COMMENT

 [1] Paragraph (a) of this Rule permits a lawyer to indicate areas of practice in communications about the lawyer's services. If a lawyer practices only in certain fields, or will not accept matters except in a specified field or fields, the lawyer is permitted to so indicate. A lawyer is generally permitted to state that the lawyer is a “specialist,” practices a “specialty” or “specializes in” particular fields, but such communications are subject to the “false and misleading” standard applied in Rule 7.1 to communications concerning a lawyer’s services.
 [2] Paragraph (b) recognizes the long-established policy of the Patent and Trademark Office for the designation of lawyers practicing before the Office. Paragraph (c) recognizes that designation of Admiralty practice has a long historical tradition associated with maritime commerce and the federal courts.
 [3] Paragraph (d) permits a lawyer to state that the lawyer is certified as a specialist in a field of law if such certification is granted by an organization approved by an appropriate state authority or accredited by the American Bar Association or another organization, such as a state bar association, that has been approved by the state authority to accredit organizations that certify lawyers as specialists. Certification signifies that an objective entity has recognized an advanced degree of knowledge and experience in the specialty area greater than is suggested by general licensure to practice law. Certifying organizations may be expected to apply standards of experience, knowledge and proficiency to insure that a lawyer's recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. In order to insure that consumers can obtain access to useful information about an organization granting certification, the name of the certifying organization must be included in any communication regarding the certification.
 [4] A claim of certification contained in a lawyer's letterhead does not require the disclaimer in Rule 7.4(e) unless the letterhead is used in an advertisement.

In the area of Civil Trial Law, The National Board of Legal Specialization is an accredited entity. It offers a specialization in Civil Trial Lawyers. The information on this specialization is set forth below.

National Board of Trial Advocacy

General Principles for Certification of Civil Trial Advocates

  1. No standards shall in any way limit the right of a certified civil or criminal trial advocate to practice law in all fields;
  2. No lawyer shall be required to obtain a certificate in civil or criminal trial advocacy before he or she can practice in either field;
  3. Certification is individual and voluntary. Certification is open to all who qualify;
  4. A lawyer may have more than one certification from other divisions of the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification;
  5. Certification shall be for five years, after which time the certificate cannot be used unless the lawyer is recertified. Certification may be revoked at any time for violations of the General Principles or Standards of the National Board of Trial Advocacy;
  6. Application will be made to the National Board of Trial Advocacy, on the forms supplied by the Board, and accompanied by the appropriate fee;
  7. Applicant must complete all requirements, including the examination, within two years of application. If the certification process is not satisfactorily completed within the two year period, the applicant will need to reapply and re-submit all required fees. An application can be denied at any time within the two year application period for failure to successfully meet the requirements for certification.
  8. A certificate will be issued upon a showing by the applicant, and by the Board's own investigation, that the applicant complies with the standards and regulations for certification.
  9. All applications and other information submitted to the National Board of Trial Advocacy shall be privileged and confidential, except as compelled by law and, except that the Board may reveal the fact of an application for the purpose of verifying information submitted by the applicant, and for the purpose of making such inquiries with respect to the character and professional reputation of the applicant as may be authorized by its rules.
  10. The National Board of Trial Advocacy does not discriminate against any lawyer seeking certification on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or age.
  11. The National Board of Trial Advocacy is dedicated to the identification of lawyers who possess an enhanced level of skill and expertise in trial advocacy, and have demonstrated integrity and dedication to the interests of their clients, thereby improving the professional competence of lawyers.

Once a lawyer is Certified, after a certain amount of time, they must become re-certified. Obviously, the re-certification process is not as rigorous as the initial certification but it is nevertheless a tough re-certification process. Below are the standards for certification:

Standards for Civil Certification

A. Good Standing and Period of Practice.

  1. The applicant shall furnish evidence of his or her good standing in the state of his or her admission, or if admitted in more than one state, in the state of his or her principal practice.
  2. Immediately preceding application, the applicant must have spent five (5) years in the actual practice of Civil and/or Criminal law.

B. Substantial Involvement

  1. The applicant must make a satisfactory showing of substantial involvement relevant to the particular specialty certification the person is seeking, with at least thirty (30) percent of his or her time spent practicing civil trial litigation, and/or thirty (30) percent of his or her time spent practicing criminal trial litigation, during the three (3) years preceding the filing of the application.
  2. Within the applicant's career, the applicant must make a satisfactory showing of substantial involvement relevant to the particular specialty certification by personal participation in at least forty-five days of trial (a day of trial is not less than six hours) during which the applicant examined or cross- examined witnesses, delivered an opening statement or closing argument or conducted a voir dire jury examination. During the forty-five or more trial days the applicant must personally have:
  • Served as lead counsel in at least five jury cases;
  • Substantially participated in at least five jury cases which have proceeded to verdict;
  • Conducted direct examination of at least twenty-five lay witnesses;
  • Conducted cross-examination of at least twenty-five lay witnesses;
  • Conducted direct examination of at least fifteen expert witnesses;
  • Conducted cross-examination of at least fifteen expert witnesses;
  • Presented at least eight opening statements;
  • Presented at least four closing arguments;
  • Conducted at least five voir dire jury examinations or (in courts which do not permit counsel to conduct voir dire examination) submitted proposed jury questions for the court at least ten times or a combination of examinations and submissions acceptable to the Standards Committee.

The Standards Committee may allow a lesser number of performances in the above if additional involvement in other categories clearly constitutes sufficient active trial participation to demonstrate an enhanced level of skill and experience.

  1. Within the applicant's career, the applicant shall also have actively participated in one hundred (100) additional contested matters involving the taking of testimony (cases included in your substantial involvement may not be included as part of your contested matters). This may include trials (jury or non-jury); evidentiary hearings or depositions; and motions heard before or after trial. In criminal advocacy, it may include juvenile delinquency hearings. In civil advocacy, it may include arbitration hearings, welfare hearings, and workers compensation matters not tried to a court.
  2. Within the applicant's substantial involvement and contested matters, one of the following four conditions must be met three years prior to application:
  • Substantial trial involvement in ten days of trial with personal participation in the categories listed in Section (B)(2) or,
  • Active personal participation in 24 litigated matters, either directly handled to conclusion as lead counsel or in a supervisory capacity to lead counsel, or
  • Participation in 36 performances (evidentiary hearings or depositions which either oral argument was made or testimony was taken, or motions heard before or after trial), or
  • A combination of trial days, participation in litigated matters or performances which demonstrates substantial involvement in the specialty equivalent to one of the three subsections above as approved by the Standards Committee.

C. Educational Experience

  1. The applicant must demonstrate substantial participation in continuing legal education and the development of the law with respect to the specialty, in the three year period immediately preceding application either:
  • By attendance and/or electronic participation in not less than forty-five hours in programs of continuing legal education in the specialty or ethics, approved by the Standards Committee, or
  • By equivalent participation through, but not limited to, the following means, approved by the Standards Committee:
    • Teaching courses or seminars in trial law or ethics;
    • Participation as panelist, speaker, or workshop leader, at educational or professional conferences;
    • Authorship of books, or of articles published in professional journals, on trial law; ao
    • By combination of the three subsections above.

D. Peer Review

  1. The applicant shall submit with application the names of ten to twelve references, not present partners, associates, or relatives of the applicant. These references shall be substantially involved in the relevant field of trial law, and familiar with the applicant's practice in that field. References satisfactory to the NBTA must be received from at least three judges before whom the applicant has tried a matter in the relevant field, not more than three years before application; and at least three shall be lawyers with whom, or against whom, the applicant has tried a matter in that field within three years of application.
  2. NBTA will solicit confidential statements from all persons listed as references and may solicit confidential statements of reference from other persons, familiar with the applicant's practice, not specifically named by the applicant. All reference statements received will be reviewed by the NBTA to assess whether the applicant has demonstrated an enhanced level of skill and expertise in the practice area, integrity and consideration for the interests of clients.

E. Examination

The applicant must pass a written examination to test his or her proficiency, knowledge, and experience in civil and/or criminal trial law, so that the applicant may justify his or her representation of specialization to the public.

F. Legal Writing Document

The applicant shall submit a copy of a legal writing document, no more than three (3) years before the date of application which he or she has prepared, but not necessarily published. This will be a substantial document in the area for which the applicant seeks certification, containing concise and accurate writing, stating facts (either actual or hypothetical), stating applicable law, analysis of how the law applies to the facts, written in an appropriately argumentative manner and well constructed (i.e. organized, grammatical, demonstrative of good syntax and usage) . Acceptable documents include, but are not limited to: briefs (trial or appellate), motions for summary judgment, bar journal, law review and legal magazine articles, motions in limine, etc.. The quality of the legal document will be evaluated on those criteria and will determine whether the applicant is qualified for certification.

G. Disclosure of Conduct

In order to assist the evaluation of whether the applicant possesses an enhanced level of skill and expertise in trial advocacy and has demonstrated integrity and dedication to the interest of clients, the applicant shall, to the extent known, disclose to the National Board of Trial Advocacy as soon as permitted by law:

  1. The filing of any criminal charges against the applicant together with all details called for by the Disclosure of Conduct Form;
  2. The filing or submission of any allegation of unethical or inappropriate professional conduct with any court, grievance committee or disciplinary board or body together with all details called for by the Disclosure of Conduct Form.
  3. The assertion of any claim of professional negligence or professional liability, whether or not suit has been filed, which is based in any part on alleged acts or omissions of the applicant or member or on the acts or omissions of any other attorney over whom the applicant or member had any responsibility together with all details called for by the Disclosure of Conduct Form.

 The National Board of Trial Advocacy shall determine, in accordance with its standards and procedures whether the conduct is such that certification should be granted, denied, suspended or revoked, or whether action should be deferred pending receipt of additional information. The NBTA will take into consideration any findings made by other bodies concerning such conduct, but is not bound by any such findings and will make its own independent assessment concerning how such conduct bears on whether an attorney is qualified to obtain or maintain certification.

The failure of an applicant to disclose such conduct is a material misrepresentation and may be cause for rejecting an application or refusing to grant certification, or for suspending or revoking a certificate. The applicant shall have a continuing duty to disclose such matters to the board.

Re-certification Standards

A. Good Standing

The applicant shall furnish satisfactory evidence of good standing in the state of his or her admission or, if admitted in more than one state, in the state of his or her principal practice.

B. Substantial Involvement

  1. The applicant must make a satisfactory showing of substantial involvement in the specialty with at least thirty (30) percent of his or her time spent practicing civil/criminal trial litigation during the five years preceding re-certification.
  2. The applicant must further demonstrate substantial involvement in specialized practice during the five (5) years preceding re-certification by showing that he or she has actively participated as counsel for a party or parties:
    1. In criminal trial advocacy, not less than fifteen (15) trial days of criminal matters
    2. In civil trial advocacy, not less than fifteen (15) trial days of civil matters

As an alternative, in civil and/or criminal trial advocacy, one of the following:

  1. Participation in forty (40) litigated matters, either directly handled to conclusion as lead counsel or in a supervisory capacity to lead counsel or,
  2. Participation in sixty (60) performances which would include depositions or hearings as which either oral argument was made or testimony was taken or,
  3. A combination of trial days, participation in litigated matters or performances which demonstrates substantial involvement in the specialty equivalent to one of the two subsections above as approved by the Standards Committee of the Board of Directors.

C. Educational Experience

The applicant must show that he or she participated in and completed at least forty-five (45) hours of educational activity, as set forth in Part C of the Certification Standards, during the five years preceding re-certification.

D. Peer Review

  1. The applicant shall submit, for each specialty area, the names of six (6) references, not present partners, associates, or relatives of the applicant. Such references shall be substantially involved in the relevant field of trial law, and should be familiar with the applicant's practice in that field. At least two (2) shall be judges before whom the applicant has appeared as an advocate in the relevant field not more than three (3) years before application; and at least three (3) shall be lawyers with whom, or against whom, the applicant has appeared as an advocate in that field within three (3) years of application.
  2. NBTA will solicit confidential statements from the references named by the applicant and may solicit confidential statements of reference from other persons, familiar with the applicant's practice, not specifically named by the applicant. References satisfactory to the NBTA must be received from at least one (1) judge and from at least two (2) attorneys. All reference statements received will be reviewed by the NBTA to assess whether the applicant has maintained the enhanced level of skill and expertise in the practice area and the integrity and consideration for the interests of clients necessary to merit recertification.

E. Disclosure of Conduct

The applicant shall comply with Part G of the Certification Standards in the same manner as an applicant for certification.

Annually, members will be required to submit a Disclosure of Conduct form and annual dues. The member's annual dues and Disclosure of Conduct (Part G of the Certification Standards) must be current before an application for recertification will be granted. Disclosures of Conduct/Liability shall be submitted to the Standards Committee to determine if certification should be continued.

F. Denial or Revocation of Certification

  1. An application for certification may be denied for failure to comply with any of the requirements relating to good standing, substantial involvement, educational experience, peer review, examination, legal writing document, disclosure of conduct, financial responsibility, or any other failure to demonstrate possession of an enhanced level of skill and expertise in trial advocacy and demonstrated integrity and dedication to the interests of clients.
  2. An application for recertification may be denied for failure to comply with any of the requirements relating to good standing, substantial involvement, educational experience, peer review, disclosure of conduct or any other failure to demonstrate possession of an enhanced level of skill and expertise in trial advocacy and integrity and dedication to the interests of clients.
  3. An existing certification may be revoked for failure to demonstrate maintenance of an enhanced level of skill and experience in trial advocacy and integrity and dedication to the interests of clients as required for certification or for failure to maintain compliance with the financial responsibility requirements.
  4. Decisions of the Examination Committee and the Legal Writing Review Committee are final and not subject to further review or appeal. An attorney who is refused certification for any other reason, or who is refused recertification or whose certification is revoked may pursue review under the Appeal Procedures of the NBTA. Exhaustion of this right shall be a condition precedent to judicial review.
  5. A lawyer who is refused certification or recertification, or whose certification is revoked, may not apply for certification until one year after the date of such refusal, denial or revocation.
  6. Suspension of the license to practice law shall operate as an automatic revocation of certification.
  7. A lawyer who publicizes a certification or application for certification prior to its being granted, or continues to publish a certification after it has been revoked or suspended, may be barred from certification.

If you wish to retain an attorney it is not essential that they be a "Specialist" in civil law to do an excellent job. However, if you wish to only choose a lawyer that has earned a "Specialization" from an ABA approved organization and you are unsure if they have a specialization, simply ask if they do hold such a specialization.

Serving clients throughout Central Colorado, including Applewood, Arvada, Aurora, Berkley, Black Forest, Boulder, Brighton, Broomfield, Castle Pines, Castle Rock, Centennial, Colorado Springs, Columbine, Commerce City, Denver, Derby, Englewood, Fort Collins, Greeley, Highlands Ranch, Ken Caryl, Lafayette, Lakewood, Littleton, Longmont, Louisville, Loveland, Northglenn, Parker, Sherrelwood, Superior, Thornton, Westminster, Wheat Ridge, areas in the vicinity of Denver International Airport, UP-Denver, and other communities in Adams County and Jefferson County.