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Why should I care if an attorney is board-certified?

When you are about to go under the knife, you want to be sure that the doctor wielding the tool knows what he or she is doing. Given a choice between a surgeon fresh out of residency and one with 15 years of experience, you surely would choose the latter. If the doctor happens to also be board-certified in a particular area of special practice so much the better.

The same holds true when it comes to choosing an attorney. Every lawyer who passes the bar and maintains his or her license is deemed qualified to provide legal counsel. But if you have a legal case and you want to feel confident of obtaining the best possible outcome, it makes sense to engage one that is a board-certified specialist.

In Texas, certification is dependent on an applicant meeting a two-part standard as set by the Supreme Court of Texas and administered by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

To ensure the general standard is met the TBLS looks to be sure an applicant can show substantial focus in the area of specialty. The board then considers the applicant's accomplishments in the practice area; his or her skills specific to the area; assesses by testing the attorney's knowledge of the specialty area and the attorney's character and fitness. Certification could be denied or revoked for claims of professional misconduct.

Getting certified for a specific practice area requires even more vetting by the board. For example, personal injury certification requires at least 25 percent of an applicant's professional time in the preceding five years to have been spent practicing personal injury trial law. The applicant must also have been involved in a minimum number of contested civil cases.

As you can see board-certification in personal injury trial law takes a lot of work. It is a status Trey Apffel has earned and maintains. And the skill and experience that certification reflects is what is put to work on behalf of clients injured in pedestrian or other vehicle-related accidents.

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