The Why and How of Becoming a North Carolina Board Certified Legal Specialist
Why You Should Become a Specialist
Lawyers limit the kinds of matters that they handle in order to acquire expertise in a specific field of law. Board certification provides formal recognition of that concentration of knowledge and experience. Certification requires a lawyer to demonstrate special training, experience, and knowledge to ensure that recognition as a certified specialist in a field of law is a meaningful and reliable credential. Specialty certification also helps to improve and maintain the competency of members of the bar by establishing an additional incentive for lawyers to continue to learn and grow in the specific field of law.
For members of the public, the NC specialization program identifies North Carolina lawyers who are experienced and knowledgeable in the consumers' areas of legal need. It provides an objective, verifiable credential that a consumer can use to make a better informed decision about legal representation. Rule 7.4 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, allows a board certified lawyer to communicate specialty certification to the public.
Board certification demonstrates to potential clients and the larger legal community a strong commitment to the specialty practice area.
Certification shows that a lawyer cares about his or her clients.
Certification brings referrals.
The program provides the following:
- Each specialist has access to a “media kit” that includes sample promotional items for immediate use.
- Specialists are listed in the specialization directory which is printed and mailed to libraries and clerks of court and posted on the website.
- A board certified specialist is featured on the homepage of the website and in each issue of the Journal. All specialist profiles are available online.
- Specialists receive The Specialist, the newsletter of the specialization program, twice each year.
- Certification brings identification and camaraderie with other certified specialists and lawyers practicing in the same specialty field.
- The Board also recognizes service and excellence through awards given at its annual luncheon each spring.
How to Become a Specialist
There are five key requirements or "standards" for legal specialty certification:
- Licensed in North Carolina and in good standing with the North Carolina State Bar.
- Substantial involvement in the specialty field during the five calendar years prior to the year of application.
- Completion of a certain number of CLE credit hours in the specialty during the three years prior to application.
- Satisfactory peer review by lawyers who are identified by the applicant.
- Passage of a 6-hour examination in the specialty field.
There are specific standards for each specialty. Ensure eligibility to apply for board certification by reviewing the summary of certification standards by specialty field.
- Download application
- Complete and return application with $250 filing fee by June 30 (scholarship applications available for lawyers working in public service)
- Confirm substantial involvement in practice area
- Confirm CLE credit
- List names and addresses of references
- Receive notification if approved to sit for examination
- Download study guide - review suggested cases and statutes listed on the study guide
- Complete practice exam questions
- Review recent case law
- Take examination in Raleigh or Charlotte
- Notification of certification
- If certified, five year period of certification technically begins January 1 of the next calendar year