Bristol Myers


Criminal Law Austin, Texas


The importance of board certification

October 8th, 2009

I was the only lawyer from Travis County who passed the test last year. About a year ago, I took the exam to become Board Certified as a Criminal Law Specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Only half of the criminal lawyers who took the test were able to pass it.

As of last year, out of all the 80,000 or so attorneys (that’s ALL lawyers, not just criminal) in the State of Texas, only 841 were Board Certified in Criminal Law. That’s about one percent, and a large number of that one percent are prosecutors now or have spent some portion of their careers prosecuting, sending people to jail and prison.

That’s no surprise. Prosecutors get to spend plenty of time in the courtroom. But it’s difficult to garner the trial and appellate experience required to even take the exam if you’ve spent your entire career on the side of defending the accused, as I have…unless you’re as tenacious as I am in the defense of my clients.

Non-board-certified lawyers, when asked, will tell you there’s no difference beyond “taking a test” and “doing some extra continuing education.” Really? If it’s so easy, why haven’t they gotten certified? Perhaps they lack the experience to sit for the exam or the knowledge to pass it. But even worse, maybe those lawyers don’t care enough–about themselves, their careers, the criminal law, or their clients to take the time to do what it takes to get certified.

For me, board certification reflects a deep and ongoing commitment to the study and practice of criminal law. If prosecutors are doing what it takes to get certified, why would you even think about coming to court with a defense lawyer who hasn’t?

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