After more than 30 years with the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Gary McNeil is retiring from his position as executive director. In his tenure, McNeil has witnessed significant changes in the legal profession and has helped TBLS adapt accordingly. Here, he discusses his role in the organization, the significance of being board certified, and the future of the process.
Since becoming involved with TBLS, what changes have you seen in the legal profession?
The single biggest change can be expressed in one word: “technology.” It has had a huge impact on the way lawyers conduct their business—and on the operation of TBLS. It is probably most noticeable in the trial areas, with fewer cases being tried and more matters resolved by ADR, but it is always a challenge to make certain the standards in each area reflect the current practice in each area.
What were some of your goals as executive director?
I honestly think my first two goals coming in were to listen and to learn. I felt TBLS needed to revise its system for maintaining files and, with the advent of the Texas Bar College and MCLE, realized we needed a centralized manner of reporting CLE attendance so attorneys only had to report one time. I also was interested in saving staff time by administering all exams at once rather than staggering them over several days.
What is your proudest accomplishment from your time with TBLS?
It is hardly my accomplishment alone, but I am proud that TBLS has improved the preparation and grading of exams. It took great commitment from the board and a lot of work by the staff and exam volunteers, but the result was a process based on science, which provides more consistency across all specialty areas.
Why do you think that TBLS has grown in the way that it has?
I think the program has been successful because it is open to anyone—in a big firm or small, in a city or small town—who can meet objective criteria (as intended by the Supreme Court and State Bar) and because the program has been operated with integrity.
What do you see as the future for TBLS?
I think certification is perhaps even more relevant than ever. In the age of information overload, certification is one way a potential client can find an experienced attorney whose competence has been objectively verified by a third party—namely, TBLS. That being said, TBLS has to continue to work hard to get the attention of potential members who are being bombarded with information from all sorts of businesses and professional organizations.
What are your plans now?
My wife and I plan on doing some traveling, including some short spur-of-the-moment trips. I would like to learn a second language and take advantage of a host of other learning opportunities. And I hope to do some work for the legal profession, perhaps in the certification area.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Just that this is really a time for thankfulness—for my staff and the many good folks at the State Bar I have been able to work with, and for all the folks who have volunteered their time to TBLS. I give a special thanks to the TBLS board members. Even though membership on the board changed periodically, every configuration of members always worked hard to make a sound decision on the issues they faced.