The State Bar certifies attorneys as specialists who have gone beyond the standard licensing requirements.
California Rule of Court 9.35 served as the basis for the creation of the State Bar Legal Specialization program. The program was intended to provide a method for attorneys to earn the designation of certified specialist in particular areas of law, increasing public protection and encouraging attorney competence.
The program was the first of its kind in the United States, and it has served as a model for other state programs for certifying legal specialists around the nation.
The general requirements to become a certified specialist include:
The State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization must approve each attorney’s application. Organizations whose certification program is State Bar-accredited can also certify attorneys, but their certification requirements must equal or exceed those of the State Bar of California’s program.
Once certified, specialists must maintain their certification by completing and reporting ongoing tasks and experience by every five years. They must also report 36 hours of Legal Specialist Continuing Legal Education (LSCLE) every three years along with their MCLE compliance group.
Certified specialists in Compliance Group 1 (last names beginning with A-G upon admittance) are due to report compliance of the 36 hours of LSCLE requirement by Feb. 1, 2019.
Certified specialists in Compliance Group 3 (last names beginning with N-Z upon admittance) are due to report compliance of the 36 hours of LSCLE requirement by Feb. 1, 2020.
Certified specialists in Compliance Group 2 (last names beginning with H-M upon admittance) are due to report compliance of the 36 hour LSCLE requirement by Feb. 1, 2021.
Full details about qualifying equivalents are available in this informational letter. To report compliance, complete and submit the Group 1 compliance card to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a California certified legal specialist?
California attorneys who are certified as specialists have taken and passed a written examination in their specialty field, demonstrated a high level of experience in the specialty field, fulfilled ongoing education requirements and been favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges familiar with their work.
Only these attorneys can identify themselves as certified specialists in California because they are the only attorneys who are certified either by the California Board of Legal Specialization or by an organization whose certification program has been accredited by the State Bar. Such an organization must have requirements for certification that are at least equal to those of the State Bar's program.