March-April 2011

New board certification in criminal appellate law

The Supreme Court of Texas has approved Standards of Certification in the new specialty area of Criminal Appellate Law. Certification in this area will be available through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization beginning this year. The court’s order concerning the standards is available at www
    This is the first new specialty area recognized by the court since Workers Compensation Law in 2004; it reflects the increasing significance of appellate processes in criminal matters. Certification will be available for Texas attorneys who have handled a sufficient number of post-conviction writs and appeals in criminal cases. While the current standards in Criminal Law continue to include trials and appeals as qualifying activities, attorneys with an emphasis on the appellate aspects of criminal law may find this new area a better reflection of their practices. Requirements for certification in this area are similar to those in other specialty areas: Applicants must have been licensed for at least five years, have 60 hours of CLE with at least 25 percent of practice time during the preceding years in the area, receive favorable peer review, and pass a written examination.
    For the first three years only of certification in this area (through 2013), attorneys who are currently certified by TBLS in Criminal Law, who have been licensed at least 10 years, and who meet the required number of cases may be eligible to qualify without written examination. This provision was designed to allow those who have already taken and passed a certification exam for Criminal Law the possibility of becoming certified in the new area without further examination. According to TBLS records, approximately 800 attorneys currently certified in Criminal Law are potentially eligible to qualify under this provision. Again, this alternative will be available only during the first three years of certification in this area.
    Please visit the Get Certified section of to learn more about certification and to review the Criminal Appellate Standards of Certification.