Civil Trial Law by the Board of Legal Specialization and Education

Board Certification in Civil Trial Law Rule 6-4

Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and EducationUnder Rule 6-4.1, a lawyer who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and meets the standards prescribed below may be issued an appropriate certificate identifying the lawyer as "Board Certified in Civil Trial Law."

The purpose of the standards is to identify lawyers who practice civil trial law and have the special knowledge, skills, and proficiency, as well as the character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism, to be properly identified to the public as board certified in civil trial law. The rules were last revised on October 16, 2015.

FInd a Lawyer in Florida Board Certified in Civil Trial Law.


Definitions for Civil Trial Law Certification

Under Rule 6-4.2, the Florida Board of Legal Specialization and Education defines the following terms:

(a) Civil Trial Law. "Civil trial law" is the practice of law dealing with litigation of civil controversies in all areas of substantive law before state courts, federal courts, administrative agencies, and arbitrators. In addition to actual pretrial and trial process, "civil trial law" includes evaluating, handling, and resolving civil controversies prior to the initiation of suit.

(b) Practice of Law. The "practice of law" for this area is defined as set out at rule 6-3.5(c)(1).


Minimum Standards for Certification in Civil Trial Law

Rule 6-4.3 sets out the minimum standards for certification in civil trial law.

(a) Substantial Involvement and Competence.

To become certified as a civil trial lawyer, an applicant must demonstrate continuous substantial involvement and competence in civil trial law in accordance with the following standards.

(1) Minimum Period of Practice.

The applicant must have actually practiced law for at least 5 years of which at least 50 percent has been spent actively participating in civil trial law. At least 3 years of this practice shall be immediately preceding application or, during those 3 years, the applicant may have served as a judge of a court of general civil jurisdiction (circuit court, federal district court, or a court of similar jurisdiction in another state) adjudicating civil trial matters.

(2) Minimum Number of Matters.

The applicant must have handled the trials of a minimum of 15 contested civil cases, each involving substantial legal or factual issues, in courts of general jurisdiction (circuit court, federal district court, or a court of similar jurisdiction in other states).

Of these 15 cases, 5 shall have been jury cases, 5 shall have been conducted by the applicant as lead counsel, and 5 shall have been submitted to the trier of fact on some or all of the issues.

At least 5 of the 15 cases, including 2 jury cases and 2 cases conducted by the applicant as lead counsel, shall have been tried during the 5 years immediately preceding application. Matters deemed to be unacceptable are those that involve: mortgage foreclosure matters tried in less than 1 day, bankruptcy, family law, criminal law, workers’ compensation, summary judgments, mediations, evidentiary hearings, preliminary injunctions, and appellate proceedings. (For purposes of this rule, a day shall be defined as a minimum of 6 hours).

If an applicant is unable to submit 15 trials in courts of general jurisdiction, 3 substitutions may be submitted. For acceptance, such substitutions may include evidentiary hearings or preliminary injunctions lasting at least 1 day which must have involved substantial legal and factual issues, as determined by the civil trial certification committee.

To be considered as a substitute for trial, the substituted matter must have been an adversarial proceeding which involved the taking of testimony and submission of evidence and must be binding on the parties. (For purposes of this rule, “binding” means that the parties are required to honor the court’s decision unless and until the decision is overturned pursuant to law.)

Completion of an advanced trial advocacy seminar, approved by the civil trial certification committee, either through teaching or attendance, that includes as part of its curriculum active participation by the applicant in simulated courtroom proceedings, may also substitute as 1 jury or non-jury trial.

(3) Substantial Involvement and Competence.

The applicant must have substantial involvement in contested civil matters sufficient to demonstrate special competence as a civil trial lawyer within the 3 years immediately preceding application.

Substantial involvement includes investigation, evaluation, pleading, discovery, taking of testimony, presentation of evidence, and argument of jury or nonjury cases. For good cause shown, the civil trial certification committee may waive 2 of the 3 years' substantial involvement for individuals who have served as judges of courts of general jurisdiction (circuit court, federal district court, or a court of similar jurisdiction in other states) adjudicating civil trial matters. In no event may the year immediately preceding application be waived.

(b) Peer Review.

The applicant shall select and submit names and addresses of 6 lawyers, not associates or partners, as references to attest to the applicant's special competence and substantial involvement in civil trial practice, as well as the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism. Individuals submitted as references shall be substantially involved in civil trial law and familiar with the applicant's practice.

No less than 1 shall be a judge of a court of general jurisdiction (circuit court or federal district court) in the state of Florida before whom the applicant has appeared as an advocate in the 2 years immediately preceding the application.

In addition, the civil trial certification committee may, at its option, send reference forms to other attorneys and judges.

Peer review received on behalf of the applicant must be sufficient to demonstrate the applicant’s competence, ethics, and professionalism in civil trial law.

(c) Education.

The applicant shall complete at least 50 hours of approved continuing legal education in the field of civil trial law within the 3 years immediately preceding application. Such education shall be approved by The Florida Bar and may include such activity as:

(1) teaching a course in civil trial law;

(2) completion of a course in civil trial law;

(3) participation as a panelist or speaker in a symposium or similar program in civil trial law;

(4) attendance at a lecture series or similar program concerning civil trial law, sponsored by a qualified educational institution or bar group;

(5) authorship of a book or article on civil trial law, published in a professional publication or journal; or

(6) such other educational experience as the civil trial certification committee shall approve.

(d) Examination.

The applicant must pass an examination applied uniformly to all applicants, to demonstrate sufficient knowledge, proficiency, and experience in civil trial law to justify the representation of special competence to the legal profession and the public.


Recertification in Civil Trial Law in Florida

To be eligible for recertification, an applicant must meet the following requirements:

(a) Substantial Involvement and Competence.

The applicant must demonstrate continuous substantial involvement and competence in the practice of law, of which 50 percent has been spent in active participation in civil trial law throughout the period since the last date of certification. The demonstration of substantial involvement shall be made in accordance with the standards set forth in rule 6-4.3(a)(3).

(b) Minimum Number of Matters. The applicant must have handled the trial of:

(1) two contested civil cases in courts of general jurisdiction (circuit court, federal district court, or a court of similar jurisdiction in other states), of which at least 1 was a jury case conducted by the applicant as lead counsel. Matters deemed unacceptable are defined in rule 6-4.3(a)(2), however, the non-jury matter may include an evidentiary hearing or preliminary injunction as defined in rule 6-4.3(a)(2); or

(2) one jury trial as lead counsel lasting a minimum of 10 days. (For purposes of this rule, a day shall be defined as a minimum of 6 hours.)

(c) Trial Substitution.

If the applicant has not participated as lead counsel in a jury trial, the applicant may substitute completion of an advanced trial advocacy seminar, either through teaching or attendance. The advanced trial advocacy seminar must be approved by the civil trial certification committee and include as part of its curriculum active participation by the applicant in simulated courtroom proceedings.

(d) Peer Review.

The applicant shall submit the names and addresses of 3 lawyers, 1 of whom is currently board certified in the area of civil trial law, and 1 judge of a court of general jurisdiction (circuit court, federal district court, or a court of similar jurisdiction in another state), before whom the applicant has appeared as an advocate within the 2 years preceding application.

Individuals submitted as references shall be sufficiently familiar with the applicant to attest to the applicant's special competence and substantial involvement in civil trial law, as well as the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism, throughout the period since the last date of certification. The names of lawyers who currently practice in the applicant's law firm may not be submitted as references.

The civil trial certification committee may, at its option, send reference forms to other attorneys and judges or authorize reference forms from other attorneys and judges. Peer review received on behalf of the applicant must be sufficient to demonstrate the applicant’s competence, ethics, and professionalism in civil trial law.

(e) Education.

The applicant must complete at least 50 hours of approved continuing legal education since the filing of the last application for certification. This requirement shall be satisfied by the applicant's participation in continuing legal education approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to rule 6-4.3(c)(1) through (6).

(f) Waiver of Compliance.

(1) On special application, for good cause shown, the civil trial certification committee may waive compliance with the substantial involvement criteria provided all other requirements of this rule have been complied with.

(2) On special application, for good cause shown, the civil trial certification committee may waive compliance with any portion of the trial and peer review criteria for an applicant who is an officer of any judicial system (as defined in the Code of Judicial Conduct), including an officer such as a bankruptcy judge, special master, court commissioner, or magistrate, performing judicial functions on a full-time basis during any portion of the period since the last date of certification.

(3) On special application, for good cause shown, the civil trial certification committee may waive compliance with the trial criteria for an applicant who has been continuously certified as a civil trial lawyer for a period of 14 years or more.