The Common Law

What is the Texas Board of Legal Specialization?

Many of the advertisements for attorneys that I've seen mention whether the attorney is board certified. What does it mean to be certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization? Are board-certified lawyers better qualified?

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is an organization that offers a certification program to attorneys wishing to become board-certified "experts" in a particular area of law. To be eligible, an attorney must meet certain experience and training requirements. For example, to become board certified in a specialty area of law, an attorney is required to (among other things) devote a large percentage of his or her practice to the specialty area for at least three years, attend continuing education seminars, and pass a written examination. TBLS certification is certainly useful in assessing a lawyer's qualifications, but it is just one of many factors to consider when selecting an attorney.

People often get a mistaken impression of a lawyer's abilities based on the phrase "not certified by the TBLS," which noncertified attorneys are required to include in their advertisements. The expression seems to imply that noncertified lawyers are not as qualified as those who are certified. This is often not the case. Noncertified lawyers are often highly competent; they just have not gone through the certification process.

The most important thing to remember when choosing a lawyer is to find someone you are comfortable with – both as a person and a professional. A good place to start is to seek a recommendation from someone whose judgment you trust, such as a family member, friend, business associate, teacher, or neighbor. Once you have an attorney in mind, look into their qualifications: educational background, legal experience, areas of expertise, past clients, and track record. Finally, meet with the attorney in person. By the end of that meeting, you should have a good idea of whether you have found the right person to handle your matter.

The goal in selecting an attorney is to find someone who is right for you. Consider special certifications, but remember that there is more to a Texas lawyer than a TBLS certificate.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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