National Board of Trial Advocacy

National Board of Trial Advocacy

Logo of the National Board of Trial Advocacy

Founded in 1977, the NBTA offers board certification in civil trial law, civil pretrial practice, criminal trial law, family trial law and Social Security disability law. This non-profit corporation is accredited by the American Bar Association as a board-certifying agency.

From 2006 until 2015, the NBTA became a division of the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (NBLSC) but is now known as the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA).



Contact Information

National Board of Trial Advocacy
200 Stonewall Blvd, Suite 1
Wrentham, MA 02093
(508) 384-6565
Email: melissa@nbtanet.org
Website: http://www.NBTALawyers.org


History of the National Board of Trial Advocacy

The NBTA is the largest national attorney specialty certification program. Overall, it is the fourth largest certification program. The NBTA has certified more than 2,400 lawyers across the country.

The NBLSC is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) to certify attorneys in five specialty areas of law that pertain to trial advocacy including criminal trial advocacy, civil trial advocacy, family trial advocacy, social security disability trial advocacy and civil pretrial practice. 

The NBTA program was reviewed in Peel v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Illinois, 496 U.S. 91 (1990) (discipline for attorney’s letterhead advertisement stating he was a civil trial specialist certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy violated the First Amendment) and Hayes v. N.Y. Atty. Griev. Comm., 672 F.3d 158 (2d. Cir. 2012) (New York disclaimer requirements violated First Amendment)

The goals of the organization include bettering the quality of trial advocacy in our nation's courtrooms and helping consumers find experienced and highly qualified trial lawyers. For attorneys that earn this important distinction, being board certified by the NBTA promotes excellence in legal advocacy and demonstrates the attorney's high standards of demonstrated competence and integrity.

Eleven states have formally-approved NBLSC certification, including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. Several other states have rules that formally recognize agencies accredited by the ABA, including Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin.


Civil Trial Advocacy

The certified specialist for civil trial advocacy focuses on noncriminal litigation, such as personal injury and medical malpractice litigation, construction law, insurance claims and other civil controversies.

To earn certification in this specialty, the attorney must show he or she was involved in at least 45 days of trial, spending at least six hours per day on trial in each trial day. Of the trial experience, the attorney must have completed the following task requirements:

  • served at lead counsel in a specified number of jury cases;
  • had a specified number of jury cases that proceeded to verdict;
  • conducted a specified number of direct examinations and cross-examinations; and
  • conducted a specified number of voir dire, opening statements and closing arguments.

Additionally, the attorney must show active participation in at least one hundred (100) additional contested matters involving the taking of testimony, including evidentiary hearings or depositions, or motions filed before or after the trial starts. In civil advocacy, the hearings may include welfare hearings, arbitration hearings, and workers' compensation matters not tried in court.

Find a Board Certified Specialists Lawyers in Civil Trial Advocacy by NBTA.


Criminal Trial Advocacy

Criminal trial advocacy includes all types of litigation in criminal cases, including both misdemeanors and felonies in state or federal court. The attorney must show substantial involvement in the specialty area of the law by being involved in at least 45 days of trial.

In that trial experience, the attorney must have completed the following task requirements:

  • served at lead counsel in a certain number of jury cases;
  • had a certain number of jury cases proceed to verdict;
  • conducted a specified number of direct examinations and cross-examinations; and
  • conducted a specified number of voir dire, opening statements and closing arguments.

The board-certified criminal trial attorney must show active participation in a minimum of one hundred (100) additional contested matters involving the taking of testimony, such as evidentiary hearings or depositions, or motions filed before or after the trial starts. In criminal advocacy, the hearings can also involve juvenile delinquency hearings.

Find a Board Certified Specialists Attorney in Criminal Trial Advocacy by NBTA.


Family Law Trial Advocacy

The term "family law trial advocacy" is defined to include litigation in family law cases, such as divorce, separation or paternity actions. A certified family trial advocacy lawyer must show that at least 30% of his or her practice is devoted to family law litigation for each of the three years prior to the application.

The attorney must show substantial involvement in a family law practice by showing that he or she participation in a specified number of trials of family law matters to verdict or judgment. The attorney must also show participation in a specified number of contested matters including jury or bench trials, evidentiary hearings or depositions, and pretrial or trial motions.

Additionally, the attorney must show participation in continuing legal education (CLE) classes relevant to a family law practice. The attorney must also show that he or she has taught a courses or seminar on the topic of family law, participated as panelist, speaker, or workshop leader, or authored books or articles published in professional journals.

Find a Board Certified Specialists in Family Law Trial Advocacy by NBTA.


Social Security Disability Advocacy

The attorney must provide substantial involvement in the specialty area of the law by spending at least 30 percent of his or her time in the specialty area during each of the last three years to become a board-certified Social Security Disability lawyer.

The attorney must show substantial involvement in the specialty area of the law by being involved in at least 100 Social Security Disability hearings, filed at least 20 appeals council briefs, filed at least 10 federal court briefs and fulfilled certain educational and CLE requirements.

Find a Board Certified Specialists in Social Security Disability Law by the NBTA.


Civil Pretrial Advocacy

Civil pretrial practice includes representation in pretrial issues in civil cases, such as discovery, summary judgment, and pretrial motion hearings. To become a certified specialist in civil pretrial practice, lawyers must show substantial involvement in this practice area including:

  • Authoring peer review publications or articles presented at a CLE function all of which relate to pretrial or trial procedure;
  • Making oral arguments on motions for summary judgment or other dispositive motions;
  • Taking depositions of expert witnesses; participating in contested arbitrations and mediations;
  • Qualifying, or opposing the qualification of, an expert in Daubert hearings;
  • Participating in class action certification hearings; and
  • Pursuing or defending contested temporary injunction hearings in which testimony is presented; and
  • presenting oral arguments in appellate cases.

Find a Board Certified Specialists Lawyers in Civil Pretrial Practice by NBTA.


Historical Connection of the NBTA and AAJ

An article appearing in AAJ's Trial Magazine in July of 1980 explained the close historical connection between the American Association for Justice (AAJ), formerly known as the ATLA, and the NBTA:  

“One of ATLA’s major issues today—one through which it hopes to make great strides in providing adequate legal representation—is the certification of legal specialists. For this reason, ATLA established the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA).”

True to this 35-year-old vision, more than 2,000 AAJ members have earned NBTA board certifications in civil trial law or NBTA board certifications in criminal trial law. The National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) is a not-for-profit American Bar Association accredited legal specialty certification program.

NBTA is a sponsor of the upcoming 2016 American Association for Justice Winter Convention being held on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Royal Palm I-IV, Mizner Center, Boca Beach Resort & Club. Members of the NBTA are encouraged to stop by and pick up NBTA-branded conference ribbons for their badges as well as other materials.


NBTA's Tournament of Champions

From October 21-23, 2016, at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, CA, Berkeley Law will host the National Board of Trial Advocacy Tournament of Champions. The competition is one of the premier law school trial competitions in the country. Known for having the highest quality of congeniality and good sportsmanship, sixteen schools are invited based on a three-year performance record at the National Trial Competition and the AAJ National Student Trial Advocacy Competition, and performances at prior Tournament of Champions competition.


Agreement with The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization & Education

If an attorney in Florida is contemplating applying for NBTA Board Certification in Civil Trial Advocacy, Criminal Trial Advocacy or Family Law Trial Advocacy and is a member of the Florida Bar, the attorney should first become Board Certified by The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization & Education in their similar specialty area.


This article was last updated on Friday, February 10, 2017.