How to Tackle NCDD's Board Certification Exam

Posted on December 16, 2018 in Board Certification


You may have heard how difficult the DUI Board Certification test is. Unfortunately, there are many among us who allow themselves to be discouraged from taking the test because they have allowed themselves to believe it is too difficult.

The truth however, in my experience is a little different. Taking the test begins with the application process. This part of the task can seem to be the most difficult as you or your assistant must dredge up old files to find dispositions to send with the application. These days, however, as more and more parts of the country begin to have court records stored electronically, it may be as simple as pulling your cases up on the clerk's website and printing dispositions. Once you have compiled all the paperwork you need and obtained the letters of recommendation, you can submit your application. It is not as daunting as you might think. You will need to document 15 trials in the last 3 years (jury or bench), and 40 contested hearings, which can include pre-trial motions hearings and even driver's license hearings in most jurisdictions.

About a month prior to the actual written test, you will receive a case scenario to use for your appellate brief and eventually for oral argument. This portion of the test can be completed at your own pace, but generally you have a couple of weeks to prepare your brief. The issues tend to be ones that are currently being litigated throughout the country and are either in front of the U.S. Supreme Court or appear to be headed that way. The brief may not be worth as many points as the written exam, compared to the time that goes into it, but the 10 points that you can get on the brief and oral argument can be the difference between passing and having to retake the test.

The written test itself is given at the NCDD winter session. I arrived a few days early and was glad to find others preparing for the test at the hotel when I arrived. We quickly bonded in a manner similar to the lasting bond that exists between members of law school study groups. We spent many hours together studying and trying to guess what we could expect on the exam. All of us were experience DUI practitioners whose practice was focused primarily on DUI defense.

I had heard anecdotally that the people who did not pass the test, mainly were those who thought that working every minute of their career on DUI cases would prepare them for the test. Studying was required; experience would not be enough. I purchased a few of the leading texts on DUI defense and made flash cards about material that I did not have experience with or that was not applicable to my state. I wanted to make sure I knew whatever they threw at me. The time I put into preparing for the exam, rather than just assuming I knew everything because I had been practicing for years, really helped.

The reality of the test was different than I expected. In itself, the questions asked overall were questions that those who practice DUI defense everyday would have been able to answer. The real difficulty of the test is time management. I had heard and was told repeatedly to make sure that I budgeted my time on the test I was about to take. Thankfully, I listened to that advice. At the top of each new question, I wrote how many minutes I had to spend on it. For each question as I neared my deadline, I began outlining instead of writing in complete paragraphs. For the first time in my life, I was still in the testing room when time was called. Even the Florida Bar Exam was completed with almost two hours left on the clock. Not only had I used every second they had given, but, honestly could have continued writing for at least another 4 hours if time had been given. Those that do not pass the test are almost always those who did not finish the test.

In short, do not let the application process or the test psych you out! You will be able to handle the difficulty of the exam. What you need to prepare for is the sheer volume of information you will be required to provide. In advance, practice outlining answers. Study and refresh your knowledge of the law and scientific testing methods. Remember, this is a legal exam not a science class exam. Budget your time and you will do fine. I encourage any experienced DUI lawyer to apply for board certification.

David Katz, a Board Certified member of NCDD, defends those accused of impaired driving in Orlando, Florida. For more information about NCDD's Board Certification Exam, click here.

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