President's Message


Keith R. CliffordTo My Fellow NBTA Attorneys:

It has been decades since I first became board certified, and I remember how keenly proud I felt to become certified by the NBTA. Today, as the new leader of this organization, I still feel that sense of pride. NBTA’s reputation was firmly established by the integrity of our founders and it continues today through the diligence of our board-certified attorneys. I am honored to start out this new year as your president.

The new year is as good a time as any to revisit our intentions and efforts as an organization. The NBTA was founded in 1977 byTheodore I. Koskoff with a mission to establish a public, reliable standard for practicing trial attorneys. Specifically, the NBTA’s core mission is two-fold:

  • Inform and educate the public concerning legal representation by board certified specialists.
  • Recognize and promote excellence in legal advocacy through a national program certifying specialists predicated on high standards of demonstrated competence and integrity.

In order for NBTA to move forward in these missions, it is imperative that we continue as leaders in the legal profession. We know the value and significance of board certification to our profession and the public. It has long been recognized. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court in Peel v. Illinois said so:

“There is no dispute about the bona fides and the relevance of NBTA certification…. Disclosure of information such as that on petitioner's letterhead both serves the public interest and encourages the development and utilization of meritorious certification programs for attorneys.”

Lead we will. In August 2018, we received ABA accreditation for a new board certification in the specialty area of Truck Accident Law. By November, we offered our inaugural Truck Accident Law examination. Now, only four months after accreditation, a large number of specialists from eight different states have completed all requirements of certification and are now NBTA Board Certified Truck Accident Law specialists.

These are only the beginnings of our new era. In the coming months, we hope to announce new, national collaborations that will introduce qualified attorneys deserving of board certification to the NBTA.  We are poised to apply for ABA accreditation in a number of new specialty areas, including Immigration Law, Intellectual Property Law, Appellate Law, Complex Litigation, Health Law,and more. It is appropriate that specialists in these practice areas have a national board certification program to enhance their professional recognition and better serve the public interest in identifying true specialists.

Finally, in November of last year, we had the first-ever NBTA All Star Conference in New Orleans, which attracted attorneys from across the country to hear from some of the most respected and accomplished attorneys in the nation (and, I confess, to enjoy great New Orleans cuisine). At that conference, I was able to meet and speak with some of you. It was a pleasure. I look forward to meeting more of you throughout my time in this role. NBTA has had a long lineage of strong leaders, each of whom I would like to thank.

In particular, I will lean heavily on those who have accomplished so much to get us so far, especially my immediate predecessors, Jack McGehee and David Rapoport, both of whom have promoted NBTA with vision and dedication. Other past presidents remain deeply involved and are the bulwark of NBTA: former AAJ President Barry Nace, Judge Paul Leary, Professor Jim Wren, and Paul Gibson.

Our certification program depends upon the excellence of our Dean of Faculty, Yale Law Professor Stephen Wizner and his Assistant Dean, Phyllis Culp. And our staff – headed by Executive Director Melissa Sternbach – of Gwen Arcangelo, Roger Daily and Julie Tomasetti is the most dedicated in the nation.

My successors – President-elect Jim Richardson and our Vice President, Professor Tracy McCormack – make me hopeful of new successes and achievements for NBTA in the years ahead.

I thank all of these, and so many more that give their time, energy, effort and wisdom to NBTA.    

Let’s get started!      


Keith R. Clifford
NBTA President