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 education 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 legal specialist education 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 legal specialist education requirement by Feb. 1, 2020.
Full details about qualifying equivalents are available in this informational letter. To report compliance, complete and submit the Group 2 compliance card to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I find a certified legal specialist?
The State Bar's Certified Specialist Search will direct you to a list of specialty areas that are certified either by the State Bar or an organization accredited by the State Bar.
The California Board of Legal Specialization also accredits the following organizations, which certify attorneys in additional practice areas. These attorneys are also listed in the bar's specialist search database.
1. Business Bankruptcy Law (American Board of Certification)
2. Consumer Bankruptcy Law (American Board of Certification)
3. Creditors' Rights Law (American Board of Certification)
4. Civil Trial Advocacy (National Board of Trial Advocacy)
5. Criminal Trial Advocacy (National Board of Trial Advocacy)
6. Family Law Trial Advocacy (National Board of Trial Advocacy)
7. Social Security Disability Law (National Board of Trial Advocacy)
8. Elder Law (National Elder Law Foundation)
9. Legal Malpractice (American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys)
10. Medical Malpractice (American Board of Professiional Liability Attorneys)
11. Juvenile Law (Child Welfare) (National Association of Counsel for Children)