The specialty area of Family Trial Law involves litigation in family law cases, such as divorce, child custody, separation or paternity actions. The NBTA is accredited by the ABA to certify lawyers as specialists in family trial law.
The NBTA defines the term "family law trial advocacy" 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.
To become certified by the NBTA in family trial law, the attorney must show substantial involvement in a family law practice by showing that he or she participates 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 courses or seminars on the topic of family law, participated as panelist, speaker, or workshop leader, or authored books or articles published in professional journals.
The National Board of Trial Advocacy (NTBA) helps identify lawyers with an enhanced level of skill and expertise in family law trial advocacy. The NTBA identifies attorneys who have demonstrated integrity and dedication to the interests of their clients and their clients’ children, thereby improving the professional competence of lawyers.
To become board certified by the NBTA in family law trial advocacy, 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, then in the state of his or her principal practice.
2. Show at least five years of experience immediately prior to application in the actual practice of family law.
3. Make a satisfactory showing of substantial involvement in family law practice, with at least thirty percent of his or her time spent practicing family law litigation, during the three years preceding the filing of the application.
4. Make a satisfactory showing of substantial involvement by personal participation that he or she has appeared as lead counsel for a party or parties in family law trial advocacy, in not less than fifteen trials of family law matters to verdict or judgment, including not less than thirty days of trial (a “day” of trial is not less than six hours).
5. Demonstrate active participation in twenty additional contested matters including trials (jury or non-jury); evidentiary hearings or depositions; and motions heard before or after trial.
6. Show that within the attorney's substantial involvement and contested matters, one of the following four conditions must be met three years prior to application:
7. Demonstrate substantial participation in continuing legal education and the development of the law relevant to the field of family law, in the three year period immediately preceding application either:
(a) By attendance and/or electronic participation at not less than forty-five hours in programs of continuing legal education relevant to family law practice, approved by the Standards Committee. Twenty percent of the continuing legal education may be in ethics.
(b) By equivalent participation through, but not limited to, the following means, approved by the Standards Committee:
Attorneys in Florida, South Carolina, and Ohio are required to show a higher number of CLE credit hours in order to advertise or communicate the NBTA certification.
8. Submit the names of ten to twelve references substantially involved in family law trial advocacy, and familiar with the applicant’s practice in that field including least three judges before whom the applicant has tried a matter in the field of family law, not more than three years before application.
9. Pass a written examination to test his or her proficiency, knowledge, and experience in family trial law, so that the applicant may justify his or her representation of specialization to the public.
10. Submit a copy of a legal writing document, no more than three years before the date of application which he or she has prepared and submitted, but not published. This will be a substantial document in family law, 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). The quality of the legal document will be evaluated on those criteria and will determine whether the applicant is qualified for certification.
11. Disclose to the National Board of Trial Advocacy as soon as permitted by law any issues impacting the attorney's fitness to practice such as the filing of criminal charges, allegation of unethical or inappropriate professional conduct with any court, grievance committee or disciplinary board or body, or assertion of any claim of professional negligence or professional liability.
Florida family law attorneys who are contemplating applying for NBTA Board Certification in Family Law Trial Advocacy should not apply unless you are already Board Certified by the Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization & Education in family law.