Hiring an Attorney 101: The Importance of "Board Certified"

When we think of “Board Certified”, we think of the best: doctors, surgeons, and professionals who are all-around qualified. “Board certified” signifies that the professional is one of the best at what they do in their chosen profession.

Board certified is important, let’s look at why

Hospitals won’t allow a surgeon who isn’t board certified to operate on a patient, let alone hold privileges at the facility. Doctors who are board certified have a higher level of satisfied patients than those who chose not to “take their boards”, as it’s known.

Then you have the profession of law. The profession of law is one of the most highly regarded and prestigious professions one can hold.

Not all attorneys are created equal

Unfortunately, one of the main issues clients face when selecting an attorney is their qualifications. While the profession itself is prestigious, there is more that goes into what makes a great lawyer than law school and a stellar bar exam score.

As clients, we often don’t narrow down what a lawyer does to one area of the law. We think of an attorney as a person we can hire to “sue” someone who has “wronged us”.

That, however, is not the whole picture.

The importance of experience

While it’s true that a lawyer does have the ability to “sue” those who have “wronged us” should the situation warrant it, it’s also true that a lawyer can practice any area of law he or she wants to after passing their state bar exam. This is very broad and leaves a lot to be explained.

A great deal of the time a lawyer specializes (personal injury, for instance, is an example of one specialty), just like those in the medical profession. A problem then arises within the profession when it comes to attorneys not acknowledging the importance claiming a specialty, and more importantly, achieving a high level of experience in their chosen specialty.

Good vs. great: it all comes down to board certification

What separates a good lawyer from a great lawyer is board certification.

The choice to become board certified is one that requires dedication, time, and commitment to one’s clients and one’s profession.

A high standard of practice and maintaining client satisfaction are only two of many factors that go into a highly qualified attorney. To become board certified, those who hold such certification must undergo a rigorous screening of credentials, including but not limited to:

  • Documented experience: how long has the attorney been practicing? What is their success rate?
  • Both judicial and peer acquired references: what do other attorneys and those in the law-world think of the attorney's ethics and moral character?
  • An exam must be taken
  • Any disciplinary action whatsoever taken upon them must be promptly reported for review; if the attorney has been written up for conduct or any other reason that pertains to their ethics, they may not be qualified to become Board Certified until a later date.

Getting board certified is important, but maintaining certification is imperative

Staying board certified is just as important as becoming board certified. Remaining board certified means the attorney has maintained the high standards set forth for them and continues to provide the highest level of satisfaction for every client.

Board certification is proof that the attorney is being held to a higher standard than his or her peers in both personal and professional conduct. Clients can place their trust in a board certified attorney because they know they’ve exceeded the standards required of that attorney to practice law.

The extensive followup to this article was published July 27, 2018. Read: "The Board Certified Difference (Why What's Hanging on Your Attorney's Wall Matters!)"