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Board Certified in Civil Trial Law

The certification for civil trial law was launched in 1978 by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS). At last count, more than 850 attorneys are Board Certified Civil Trial Law Lawyers in Texas.

For purposes of the board certification program for attorneys in Texas, the phrase "civil trial law" is defined as involving litigation of civil controversies in all areas of substantive law before state and federal courts. Lawyers focused on civil trial law represent individuals and businesses in a wide range of civil matters.

Attorneys who apply to be board certified in civil trial law must demonstrate the ability to:

  • Evaluate a case; including available remedies and elements of damages, develop pre-trial strategy and proposals for settlement
  • Draft pleadings; identify appropriate parties; identify causes of action and affirmative defenses
  • Conduct discovery
  • Draft pre-trial motions
  • Conduct voir dire
  • Examine and cross-examine lay and expert witnesses
  • Present, and object to, evidence
  • Use documentary evidence
  • Compose arguments
  • Preserve error
  • Draft trial motions and briefs
  • Draft jury instructions
  • Draft post-trial motions

Standards for Board Certification in Civil Trial Law

The standards for certification in civil trial law were developed by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS) Those standards including a showing of the following qualifications:

  • Practice law fulltime for at least 5 years as an active member of the State Bar of Texas;
  • At least 3 years of Civil Trial Law experience with a yearly minimum 35% substantial involvement in Civil Trial Law matters;
  • Tried at least 20 civil trials in a court of record in Texas or in federal court that involved an amount in controversy in excess of $25,000 or significant nonmonetary claims including:
    • at least seven must be jury trials that were conducted by the applicant as lead counsel and submitted to the jury;
    • no more than seven may be personal injury cases;
    • no more than seven may be family law cases; and
    • in at least five trials, the applicant must have played a significant role in conducting jury selection.
  • The following types of proceedings may be substituted for three of the other 13 civil trials.
    • A civil jury trial conducted by the applicant as lead counsel in a state court of record outside of Texas, but within the United States, where the case was submitted to the jury for decision. The amount in controversy must have exceeded $25,000, or the case must have involved significant nonmonetary claims. Formal rules of evidence and procedure must have applied in the case.
    • A civil trial conducted by the applicant as lead counsel that concluded before submission to either a jury or the court (in a bench trial) in a court of record in Texas or in federal court. The trial must have concluded: (a) after voir dire, opening statements, and the examination of witnesses in a jury trial; or (b) after opening statements and the examination of witnesses in a bench trial. The amount in controversy must have exceeded $25,000, or the case must have involved significant nonmonetary claims.
    • An arbitration conducted to a final decision by the applicant as lead counsel in which formal rules of evidence and procedure governed the proceeding. The amount in controversy must have exceeded $25,000, or the case must have involved significant nonmonetary claims.
    • A criminal jury trial conducted by the applicant as lead counsel that resulted in a final verdict in a court of record in Texas or in federal court.
    • A contested administrative proceeding conducted by the applicant as lead counsel for a party before a Texas or federal agency. The matter must have been resolved after a hearing on the merits in which witnesses were examined by direct and cross-examination, and a final order must have been issued by the agency. The amount in controversy must have exceeded $25,000, or the case must have involved significant nonmonetary claims.
    • A temporary or preliminary injunction hearing conducted by the applicant as lead counsel that resulted in a final decision on the temporary or preliminary injunction request. In the hearing, the applicant must have presented an opening and closing statement and conducted live direct and cross-examination of witnesses. The amount in controversy must have exceeded $25,000, or the case must have involved significant nonmonetary claims.
    • Qualified vetted references from judges and lawyers in the area;
    • Complete 60 hours of TBLS approved continuing legal education in Civil Trial Law;
    • Meet all of the TBLS Standards for Attorney Certification; and
    • Pass a comprehensive 6-hour examination in Civil Trial Law.

Exam Specifications for Board Certification in Civil Trial Law

The purpose of the certification exam is to require an applicant to demonstrate substantial knowledge of significant legal concepts and corresponding skills in civil trial law.

The exam consists of a three-hour morning session with three essay questions each worth 100 points and a three-hour afternoon session with 100 multiple choice questions (10 of which involve professional ethics) each worth 2 points. The required passing score is 350.

Essay questions consist of a fact pattern followed by a series of questions (usually 4-6) for an applicant to answer. Essays are designed to require an applicant to recognize and analyze issues in the fact pattern and explain how those issues should be resolved.

The fact patterns will involve situations you would likely encounter in your practice. Essays in this area usually include litigation between a business and either another business, an ownership interest, or an employee, and sometimes litigation between a business and a consumer. It is also possible that an essay will deal with litigation between creditors and debtors or litigation between individuals involving contracts or non-personal injury torts.

The TBLS exam specifications for civil trial law were updated in July of 2019. Topics on the examination might include the following:

  1. Litigation Between Businesses
  2. Litigation Between a Business and Ownership Interests
  3. Creditor’s and Debtor’s Litigation, including Fair Debt Collection and Turnover Actions
  4. Litigation Between a Business and Its Employees
  5. Litigation Between a Business and Consumers
  6. Fiduciary Litigation
  7. Defamation, Slander and Texas Citizens Participation Act Claims
  8. Litigation Between Individuals for Contract disputes or Non-personal injury torts
  9. Litigation Pertaining to Real Property Interests and Disputes
  10. Landlord-Tenant Litigation
  11. Actions for Declaratory Judgment, State, and Federal
  12. Alternatives to Court Litigation

This article was last updated on Thursday, December 12, 2019.

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