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What is Legal Specialization?

The Board of Legal Specialization was created in 1983 by the North Carolina State Bar and began certifying North Carolina lawyers as legal specialists in 1987. The Board was established to create a method by which qualified North Carolina lawyers might become certified as specialists in designated areas of the law. The goals of the legal certification program are twofold.

First, the program assists in the delivery of legal services to the public by identifying to the public those lawyers who have demonstrated special knowledge, skill, and proficiency in a specific field. By identifying these lawyers, members of the public can more closely match their needs with available services. Second, the legal specialization program seeks to improve the competency of members of the bar by establishing an additional incentive for lawyers to participate in continuing legal education and to meet other requirements of specialization. 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.

The North Carolina State Bar Specialization Program conforms to the standards set forth by the American Bar Association. The legal certification program in North Carolina is one of only 18 state legal certification programs in the United States.

Currently, the board certifies lawyers in ten areas of law: appellate practice, bankruptcy law, criminal law, elder law, estate planning and probate law, real property law, family law, immigration law, social security disability law, and workers’ compensation law.

Source: North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization