One of the most important things to look for when hiring an attorney to defend your Houston DWI is whether or not the attorney is a Board Certified expert in criminal defense law. Any attorney can call themselves the best, but attorneys must be certified by the State of Texas to hold themselves out as an expert in criminal law. That is important because the certification process ensures that only qualified attorneys are able to hold themselves out as an expert in criminal defense law because they have earned the right. If you need to discuss your case with a Board Certified expert in criminal defense law, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.
The Process of Obtaining Board Certification in Texas
In Texas, the process of certifying attorneys as experts in their fields is performed by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To become Board Certified as an expert in criminal law, candidates must first meet a variety of requirements before applying. Once the Board receives and approves an application, the candidate must then pass a lengthy examination.
The Application Process
The application process for Board Certification is lengthy. A candidate must first read over the rules and regulations before submitting a written application through the State Board website. After the application is submitted and the fee is paid, the Texas Board of Legal Specialization will review the application to ensure that three major requirements are met:
- the candidate has “substantial involvement” in criminal law;
- the candidate has met all continuing education requirements; and
- the candidate has five references from fellow criminal lawyers.
The substantial involvement requirement is designed to prevent attorneys who dedicate very little of their time practicing law to criminal defense practice. To be substantially involved, an attorney must dedicate at least 25% of his law practice exclusively to criminal defense work during the previous three years. There are also experience benchmarks a candidate must meet before being considered. The candidate must have handled at least three of the following four as lead counsel:
- 5 state felony jury trials;
- 10 misdemeanor jury trials;
- 5 federal jury trials or substantial involvement in 10 federal cases; and/or
- Any combination of 5 state or federal appeals.
Every practicing attorney is required to take a certain amount of CLE classes each year. This is designed to help attorneys stay up to date on changes in the law and educate them on best practices. To be eligible for certification, a candidate must have completed at least 60 hours of criminal law CLE-approved by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
A candidate must include with the application the names and addresses of at least 5 references that can attest to the candidate's skill and experience in practicing criminal law. These references must be substantially involved in the practice of criminal law and have direct knowledge of the candidate's law practice. Four of the references must come from attorneys that the candidate has tried a case with or against. The fifth reference must be a Texas judge the candidate has appeared before on a criminal law matter.
The Examination Process
Upon completing the application process and paying a fee, a candidate can sit for the examination. The examination is held once per year, and no exceptions are made. The exam is a full day, consisting of a three-hour session in the morning and a three-hour session in the afternoon. The morning session consists of three separate essays, while the afternoon consists of 100 multiple choice questions. The exam tests the candidate on skills related to effective criminal law practice, including how to:
- Analyze, sort, and use facts; plan and direct factual investigations;
- Analyze and apply legal rules and principles;
- Communicate effectively and persuasively to clients, attorneys, and judges;
- Evaluate the merits of a case;
- Represent a client ethically; and
- Conduct a jury trial.
Once the examination is completed, the Board of Legal Specialization will grade the examinations together. The Board will then notify the candidate of the results. If a candidate passes the examination and meets all other requirements, the Board will confer a Certificate of Special Competence in Criminal Law.
The opportunity to take the examination has limits. If a candidate fails on the first attempt, he can petition the Board for permission to take the examination again. Upon a second failure, the candidate is required to start the application process over again.
What it means to be a Board Certified Expert
Board certification is official recognition from the State of Texas that the attorney is a genuine expert in criminal law. There are countless accolades that an attorney may be awarded or even purchase with little to no requirements. An attorney that is Board Certified has been vetted by government officials and their peers through an open, transparent process. That's why Board Certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization carries more weight than other accolades.
Is it common for attorneys to become board certified experts?
Board certification is very rare. Since 1972, the Texas Board of Legal Specialization has certified approximately 7,250 attorneys as an expert in at least one area of law -- not just criminal law. For a frame of reference, there were over 98,000 licensed attorneys in the State of Texas in 2016 and that figure only increases each year. Only a top expert in Texas criminal law will be certified by the Board.
Discuss your Case with Houston's Best Board Certified Criminal Law Expert
A certification in criminal law is held in high regard by the Texas legal community because of the commitment and knowledge required for an attorney to obtain one. If you have been charged with a DWI in the Houston area, attorney Doug Murphy is the premiere Board Certified expert in criminal law in the area. In fact, Doug Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the State of Texas to be Board Certified as an expert in both criminal law and DWI defense law.
To discuss your case with a Board Certified expert, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to set up your free consultation today.