I became a board certified criminal trial lawyer the second year it was offered (1988). I have remained board certified ever since. However, I am becoming more and more disillusioned with the value of board certification. Lawyers are now allowed to say and advertise that they are “experts” even though they are not board-certified. If you walked into a grocery store and asked 20 strangers who they would rather hire as a lawyer, one that is board certified or an expert, I venture to say that 90% would want an expert representing them.
The title “board certified” is further eroded by all the rating services and companies that are, in my opinion, completely bogus. Lawyers advertise that they have a 10 rating in AVVO. By and large, it is quite easy to get a 10 rating even if you’re been practicing law for a short period of time (I know a lawyer who graduated from law school a year ago with a 10 AVVO rating and a highly respected lawyer practicing law for 30 years with a 6 rating). You just have to get your constituents to give you a 10 rating (in return you give them one) and fill out a questionnaire supplied by the company that is not fact checked. Bingo, you have the highest rating possible. This is not the only rating service or company that provides a disservice to the public. It seems that every month I receive a notice that I have been included in the “10 best lawyers in Florida,” the Tampa Bay Magazine’s “Best lawyer category,” “Marquis Who’s Who of America’s Top Lawyers,” “The National Association of Distinguished Counsel’s Nation’s Top Attorneys,” “The National Trial Lawyers Top 100,” “The Litigation Counsel of America,” “America’s top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys,” Best Lawyers and “Criminal Defense Top 10 Attorneys in the Attorney and Practice Magazine” just to name a few. Getting in these organizations comes at a price. That’s right, a price. Pay a fee and you’re in. And you get a plaque and certificate to hang on your wall and advertise you are among the “elite”!
If board certification is to survive, my suggestion would be an advertising campaign which not only touts the experience and competence of board certification but also warns the public about these rating services and companies that make it sound like the attorney has been chosen after a vigorous vetting process. I would go so far as to advise the public how easy it is for an attorney to join such organizations. Otherwise, board certification will have little meaning and people like me will drop out and fewer will expend the time, effort and expense of becoming board-certified.