Why You Should Hire a Board-Certified Attorney
Potential clients and peers often overlook Board Certification by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS). The Board is a part of the State Bar of Texas, which is the entity that licenses all attorneys to practice law in the State of Texas. All lawyers must be licensed to practice. Board Certification, however, is voluntary.
As explained by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization:
“Board Certification is a mark of excellence and a distinguishing accomplishment. Within the Texas legal community, Board Certification means an attorney has substantial, relevant experience in a select field of law as well as demonstrated, and tested, exclusive competence in that specialty of law.
Board Certified lawyers earn the right to represent themselves as a specialist in a select area of the law. Board Certified attorneys are the only attorneys allowed by the State Bar of Texas to do so. This designation sets them apart as being an attorney with the highest, public commitment to excellence in their area of law.”
Board Certification should be one factor clients consider when selecting an attorney and other attorneys weigh when making referrals. Just as doctors and dentists focus on a specialty area of medicine or dentistry in which they develop expertise, attorneys may choose to specialize in a specific area of law.
While some firms are general or “full service,” none of us can excel in every field of law, and some attorneys dabble in multiple areas of law. Insightful attorneys naturally gravitate to devoting their practice to serving clients in one or two principal areas.
This idea of legal specialization increases an attorney’s ability to serve the public best. It demonstrates that he or she meets or exceeds levels of professional excellence in a specialty area of law. Board-Certification enables an attorney to express to clients and the public that you have a requisite amount of experience, abilities, expertise, and knowledge that the average lawyer does not.
Retaining a Board-Certified attorney in the area of law that pertains to your case gives you peace of mind and assurance that the attorney who pursued board certification strives to meet the highest standards of practice in their field and are specialized in that area of law.
The better the public understands the vigorous process of Board Certification, the more they will realize it to be a designation of professional development.
Board Certification Requirements
The general requirements of Board Certification include a minimum of five years of legal practice with at least three consecutive years in Texas, an active member in good standing with the State Bar of Texas — as well as other requisites specific to their given area of specialty. For example, an attorney who is Board Certified in estate planning and probate law must have dedicated at least 25 percent of their practice to the field over the previous three years, complete 60 hours of TBLS approved continuing legal education in Estate Planning & Probate Law, demonstrate the required substantial involvement in the specialty area by providing detailed information concerning the number, substance, and complexity of cases handled in the specialty area, and give the names of five references (of fellow attorneys and judges) to an advisory committee which votes on the applicant’s credentials. Approved applicants then must pass a comprehensive day-long exam that tests their knowledge in Estate Planning and Probate Law, which is only offered once a year.
An applicant must show sufficient involvement in a substantial portion of the activities described in estate planning and estate administration and tax matters within the three years immediately preceding application, as stated on the TBLS’s website. With regards to the requirements of Estate Planning cases, the TBLS requires the applicant must have “counseled clients in estate planning, including advising with respect to gifts, life insurance, wills, trusts, business arrangements, and agreements, and other estate planning matters; prepared or supervised the preparation of estate planning instruments, e.g., simple and complex wills, including provisions for testamentary trusts, tax deductions, and elections; revocable and irrevocable inter vivos trusts; business planning agreements; powers of attorney and other estate planning instruments.” With regards to the requirements of Estate Administration and Tax Matters, the TBLS requires attorneys, “represented clients concerning the probate and/or administration of decedents’ estates and trusts, including dependent and independent administration and muniments of title, guardianships, determinations of heirship, and will and trust litigation; prepared, reviewed, or supervised the preparation of federal gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer tax returns, Texas inheritance tax returns, and U.S. fiduciary income tax returns; and representation before the Internal Revenue Service, state taxing authorities, or the courts, in connection with such tax returns and related controversies.”
Moreover, Board Certification is not a one-time event. Board Certified attorneys must maintain certification with periodic peer references and continuing legal education requirements. Attorneys must apply for recertification every five years.
Respected and Experienced
Board Certification is an important distinction among attorneys. Board Certified attorneys have earned recognition from the public and the legal community for having attained a certain level of experience and skill as a specialist. Those attorneys can market themselves as specialists in those specifics practice areas. Knowing that you have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side can ease your mind in the courtroom.
Board Certification is entirely voluntary and an objective measure of an attorney’s professional competence, experience, and skill in a particular area of law. It is an achievement that matters to potential clients, fellow lawyers, and the judiciary. Being Board Certified is an honor and sets an attorney apart from the competition.
Loveland & Hurley, PLLC is proud to have a Board-Certified Estate Planning and Probate Law specialist on our team. Kimberly N. Loveland handles all types of estate planning and probate cases in North Texas.
Contact us to set up a consultation for your legal matter about estate planning and probate law.
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