Criminal Trial Advocacy

This article by Lawyer Legion explains the requirements for attorneys to earn the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) board certification in criminal trial law. Criminal trial advocacy includes all types of litigation in criminal cases, including both misdemeanors and felonies in state or federal court. To earn NBTA board certification, 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 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.

Requirements for NBTA Board Certification in Criminal Trial Law

To earn NBTA board certification in criminal trial law, the attorney must:

1. 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. Show five years in the actual practice of Criminal law immediately before making the application.

3. Make a satisfactory showing of substantial involvement in criminal trial law, with at least thirty percent of his or her time spent practicing criminal trial litigation during the three years preceding the filing of the application.

4. Make a satisfactory showing of substantial involvement in criminal trial law 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.

5. Show active participated in one hundred additional contested matters involving the taking of testimony which can 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.

6. The attorney must demonstrate substantial participation in continuing legal education and the development in criminal trial law during the three year period immediately preceding application by either:

(a) attending or electronic participation in not less than forty-five hours in programs of continuing legal education in criminal trial law, approved by the Standards Committee, or
(b) By equivalent participation through, but not limited to, the following means, approved by the Standards Committee:
(I) Teaching courses or seminars in trial law or ethics;
(II) Participation as panelist, speaker, or workshop leader, at educational or professional conferences;
(III) Authorship of books, or of articles published in professional journals, on trial law;
(IV) By combination of the three subsections above.

For attorneys in Florida, South Carolina and Ohio, the rules require a higher number of CLE credit hours in order to advertise or communicate the NBTA certification.

7. Submit with application the names of ten to twelve references that are substantially involved in criminal 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.

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

9. Submit a copy of a legal writing document, no more than three years before the date of application which he or she has prepared, but not necessarily published. The document must be in the area of criminal trial law and contain 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).


Special Agreement with The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization & Education

For Florida attorneys seeking certification from the NBTA in Criminal Trial Advocacy, the attorney should not apply unless the attorney is already Board Certified by the Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization & Education in criminal trial law.

This article was last updated on Monday, February 22, 2016.