Becoming a Legal Specialist

Certification is granted for a period of five years. To be recertified, a lawyer must again demonstrate that he or she is substantially involved in the practice area; attend CLE seminars in the practice area; and be favorably evaluated by peers.

Important Dates

The application period for 2016 is May 2, 2016, through July 1, 2016. The tentative 2016 exam schedule is listed below:

Friday, September 16, 2016
Elder Law

Thursday, October 13, 2016
Bankruptcy Law (if both sub-specialties, also October 14)

Monday, October 17, 2016
Appellate Practice
Criminal Law (including juvenile delinquency)
Family Law

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Immigration Law
Social Security disability
Trademark Law
Utilities Law (* Pending approval by the State Bar Council and NC Supreme Court)

Friday, October 28, 2016
Charlotte Exam Administration (All specialty exams except Elder Law and Appellate Practice. Alternate date option for Appellate Practice if requested.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Estate Planning and Probate Law
Workers’ Compensation Law
Real Property Law (if both sub-specialties, also November 2)

Exam results available Tuesday, November 22, 2016.
*Bankruptcy law exam results available Spring 2017.

Examination Locations

Raleigh examinations will be held at the State Bar building in Raleigh at 217 E. Edenton Street.

Charlotte examinations will be held at the Mecklenburg County Bar building at 2850 Zebulon Avenue.


Certification application, supplemental application forms, and request for waiver of strict compliance will be available on May 2, 2016 on our Forms page.

Recertification applications will be available July 1, 2016.

Cost for Certification

The initial application must be accompanied by a check for $250. If approved to sit for the examination, the applicant must pay a $150 examination fee. Certification is effective for five years. At the end of five years, a specialist must apply for recertification. There is a $250 fee for recertification. The standards for recertification are similar to the standards for initial certification but no written examination is required. Specialists also pay a $100 annual fee.

Specialty Requirements

Although the requirements vary from one specialty area to the next, the minimum standards for certification as a specialist include the following:

(1) the applicant must be licensed and in good standing to practice law in North Carolina;

(2) the applicant must be substantially involved in the practice area, usually for a minimum of five years;

(3) the applicant must take a certain number of continuing legal education credits in the specialty area during the three years prior to application;

(4) the applicant must make a satisfactory showing of qualification in the specialty through peer review

(5) the applicant must achieve a satisfactory score on a written examination in the practice area.

We have created a summary of certification standards by practice area. Additional provisions may apply, so please review the certification standards set forth in 27 NCAC Subchapter D, Sections .2100 through .3100. Contact Denise Mullen at or 919-828-4620 x255 if you have questions or need clarification.

217 E. Edenton Street (27601) • PO Box 25908 • Raleigh, NC 27611-5908 • 919.828.4620
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