Board Certification Article Gives Rise to Questions

Some of you read a recent article in the Tennessee Bar Journal about a project that I am working on concerning board certification for lawyers. Unfortunately, the title of the article, “Changes would allow litigators with fewer jury trials to be certified ‘civil trial specialist,” has caused concern for those who are already certified.

Let me put those folks at ease.

The headline is wrong. There is no effort underway and I see no effort on the horizon to reduce the requirements for becoming board-certified. What the National Board of Trial Advocacy is doing is looking at the establishment of another speciality that would allow certification for those lawyers who had demonstrated competence and experience in civil trial work but did not have enough jury trial days to become a certified civil trial specialist. Any person would not be certified as a “civil trial specialist” but instead would be certified in a new, yet-to-be-named field.

NBTA’s current rules do not permit someone to be “certified” who has demonstrated competence and experience in non-jury trials and has no intention of trying a jury trial. It would be wrong to certify these lawyers as jury trial lawyers, but it is just as wrong not to make some type of certification available to them.

The world of civil trials is changing. The number of jury trials is in decline, and there is little reason to expect that we will ever go back to the day where lawyers are trying two or three jury trials a week. (Yes, you young lawyers out there, that used to happen!) NBTA needs to take that reality into account, and needs to fulfill its mission to help the public recognize those lawyers with demonstrated competence and experience is the changing civil trial arena.

That is the essence of the NBTA project. I am happy to be a part of it.