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Civil Trial Advocacy

This article by Lawyer Legion provides information on the NBTA Board Certification program for lawyers in the field of Civil Trial Law. The certified specialist for civil trial advocacy focuses on non-criminal 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 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.

Requirements for NBTA Board Certification in Civil Trial Law

To earn certification in civil trial law, the attorney must:

1. Furnish evidence of his or her good standing in the state of his or her bar admission, or if admitted in more than one state, in the state of his or her principal practice.

2. Show that immediately preceding application, the attorney has five years in the actual practice of Civil law.

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

4. Make a satisfactory showing of substantial involvement relevant to the particular specialty certification 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 that During the forty-five or more trial days the applicant must personally have:

(a) served as lead counsel in at least five jury cases;
(b) substantially participated in at least five jury cases which have proceeded to verdict;
(c) presented at least four closing arguments;
(d) presented at least eight opening statements;
(e) conducted cross-examination of at least fifteen expert witnesses;
(f) conducted direct examination of at least fifteen expert witnesses;
(g) conducted cross-examination of at least twenty-five lay witnesses;
(h) conducted direct examination of at least twenty-five lay witnesses; and 
(i) conducted at least five voir dire jury examinations or (in courts which do not permit counsel to conduct voir dire examination) submitted proposed jury questions for the court at least ten times or a combination of examinations and submissions acceptable to the Standards Committee.

[[In some cases, the Standards Committee will allow a lesser number of performances in categories (c) through (i) if additional involvement in other categories clearly constitutes sufficient active trial participation to demonstrate an enhanced level of skill and experience.]]

6. The attorney must have actively participated in one hundred additional contested matters involving the taking of testimony (cases included in your substantial involvement may not be included as part of your contested matters). This may include trials (jury or non-jury); evidentiary hearings or depositions; and motions heard before or after the trial which may include arbitration hearings, welfare hearings, and workers' compensation matters not tried to a court.

7. The attorney must demonstrate substantial participation in continuing legal education and the development of the law with respect to the specialty, in the three year period immediately preceding application either:

(a) By attendance and/or electronic participation in not less than forty-five hours in programs of continuing legal education in the specialty or ethics, 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 the combination of the three subsections above.

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

8. The attorney must submit the names of ten to twelve references substantially involved in the relevant field of trial law, and familiar with the applicant’s practice in that field including at least three judges before whom the applicant has tried a matter in the relevant field.

9. That attorney must pass a written examination to test his or her proficiency, knowledge, and experience in civil trial law, so that the applicant may justify his or her representation of specialization to the public.

10. The attorney must 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 quality of the legal document will be evaluated to help determine whether the applicant is qualified for certification. The rules provide that "[t]his will be a substantial document in the area for which the applicant seeks certification, containing 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) . Acceptable documents include, but are not limited to: briefs (trial or appellate), motions for summary judgment, bar journal, law review, and legal magazine articles, motions in limine, etc...."

Additional Requirements for Florida Attorneys

If an attorney is contemplating applying for NBTA Board Certification in Civil 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 civil trial law.

At Lawyer Legion, we understand the important way that specialty certification programs help the public find a civil trial lawyer.

This article was last updated on Friday, November 22, 2019.