Certification from a national perspective.Information about certification and specialization facilitates the consumer's access to legal services legal services n. the work performed by a lawyer for a client. and thus better serves the administration of justice."
So proclaimed Justice Stevens in neatly summing up the mission of lawyer specialty certification in his opinion in Peel v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Illinois, 496 U.S. 91 (1990). From the full-service country lawyer of Abraham Lincoln's day to the 21st century boutique firm lawyer, certification and specialization have become part of the legal landscape.
Where We've Been
The early American "country lawyer" needed to know about all areas of the law, because he never knew what problem would present itself next. In those days, economics and transportation made referrals difficult. With the growth of large cities and the economic boom of the early 20th century came large law firms This list of the world's largest law firms by revenue is taken from The Lawyer and The American Lawyer and is ordered by 2006 revenue:
This phrase is used to characterize an officer, a government, a past action, or a state of affairs that must be accepted for all practical purposes, but is illegal or illegitimate. specialization has continued to expand, as even the generalist gen·er·al·ist
A physician whose practice is not oriented in a specific medical specialty but instead covers a variety of medical problems.
generalist will gravitate grav·i·tate
intr.v. grav·i·tat·ed, grav·i·tat·ing, grav·i·tates
1. To move in response to the force of gravity.
2. To move downward.
3. toward a particular type of work. Just looking at the number of sections in any bar association confirms that lawyers self-select areas of interest to them.
The ABAs earliest formal recognition of legal specialization State-regulated legal certification programs allow attorneys to be recognized as "board certified" experts in their practice areas. The certification process is overseen either by state bar associations or state supreme courts and is designed to prevent the public from being was the adoption of Canon 45 of the Canons of Professional Ethics professional ethics,
n the rules governing the conduct, transactions, and relationships within a profession and among its publics.
professional ethics liability,
n 1. in 1928. It declared that "specialists" were not exempt from the principles of the canons. In 1933, the ABA Aba (ä`bä), city (1991 est. pop. 264,000), SE Nigeria. It is an important regional market, a road and rail hub, and a manufacturing center for cement, textiles, pharmaceuticals, processed palm oil, shoes, plastics, soap, and beer. acknowledged the professional and economic value of specialization by adopting Canon 46. Canon 46 allowed lawyers who undertook specialized legal work exclusively for other lawyers, to advertise such specialized legal work in a "dignified" manner in legal periodicals Legal periodicals are trade publications for the legal profession targeted at lawyers, paralegals, judges, and government civil servants. They contain commentary on current and proposed legislation as well as on recent court decisions and administrative rulings. .
Ethics rules and lawyer specialty certification have advanced together because of the ethical issues involved in lawyer advertising. So as the ABA evaluated changes to the canons from 1964 through 1969, the association was also studying specialization. In 1967, an ABA Special Committee on Availability of Legal Services concluded that recognition and regulation of specialization would improve the availability of legal services. After two years of study, the ABA decided not to pursue a national plan of specialization, but rather to continue studying the experimental specialization programs conducted at the state level.
In 1969, following five years of study and drafting, the House of Delegates House of Delegates
The lower house of the state legislature in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. enacted Model Code of Professional Responsibility. DR 2-105(A) prohibited a lawyer from holding himself or herself out as a specialist, as practicing in certain areas, or as limiting his or her practice, except for the traditional areas of patent, trademark, and admiralty Admiralty, in British government, department in charge of the operations of the Royal Navy until 1964. Originally established under Henry VIII, it was reorganized under Charles II. , or where a state authority had issued the certification. During the time the model code was in effect, lawyer specialty certification programs were starting in several states. California began a pilot program certifying lawyers in the areas of criminal law, taxation, and workers' compensation workers' compensation, payment by employers for some part of the cost of injuries, or in some cases of occupational diseases, received by employees in the course of their work. in 1972. Under the California certification program the applicants were required to meet certain standards, such as a minimum number of years of practice, substantial involvement, continuing education continuing education: see adult education.
or adult education
Any form of learning provided for adults. In the U.S. the University of Wisconsin was the first academic institution to offer such programs (1904). in the field, and passing a written exam.
The Supreme Court of New Mexico New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S). adopted a different approach in 1973 by encouraging lawyers to limit their practices to just a few fields of practice, based on the belief that voluntary specialization would ultimately improve competence. The New Mexico program allowed the attorneys to self designate and advertise one specialty area, if they concentrated at least 60 percent of their practice in that field and they would return the clients to the referring attorneys after the matter was completed. The other alternative allowed attorneys to designate and advertise that their practice was limited to a maximum of three specialty areas.
The third approach was a hybrid of the California and New Mexico programs and came from Florida in 1974. Texas established a program similar to California's in 1975. In 1979, after observing the success of the California, New Mexico, Florida, and Texas programs, the ABA created, adopted and promoted the Model Plan of Specialization. (3) The ABA model plan included the most successful features of the existing state programs and provided guidance to other states contemplating development of specialty certification programs.
During this time of state expansion of specialty certification programs, the ABA was again reevaluating the ethics rules governing the legal profession, in 1977, the ABA created the Commission on Evaluation of Professional Standards to reconsider the ethical underpinnings and issues of the legal profession. The final result was the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which were adopted by the House of Delegates in 1983. Model Rule 7.4 continues the historical specialty designations in patent, trademark, and admiralty law admiralty law: see maritime law. . Additionally, the circumstances under which a lawyer is able to state that he or she has been recognized or certified as a specialist in a particular field, are subject to state regulation.
The various state bar associations and supreme courts were not the only ones interested in lawyer specialty certification. Private organizations started certification programs in the 1970's. The Association of Trial Lawyers in America (ATLA ATLA Association of Trial Lawyers of America
ATLA American Theological Library Association
ATLA American Trial Lawyers Association
ATLA Air Transport Licensing Authority (Hong Kong)
ATLA Avatar: The Last Airbender ), founded the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA NBTA National Business Travel Association
NBTA National Board of Trial Advocacy
NBTA New Brunswick Teachers Association
NBTA National Baton Twirling Association
NBTA National Basketball Trainers Association
NBTA National Bus Traffic Association ), which has been certifying litigators since 1977. In fact, it was attorney Gary Peel's letterhead indicating his certification by the NBTA in civil trial advocacy that brought him and specialty certification to the attention of the U. S. Supreme Court. NBTA now has programs in civil trial advocacy, criminal trial advocacy, and family law trial advocacy.
Other early programs included the certification programs of the American Board of Certification (ABC ABC
in full American Broadcasting Co.
Major U.S. television network. It began when the expanding national radio network NBC split into the separate Red and Blue networks in 1928. ), which is sponsored by the American Bankruptcy Institute The American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) is the largest multi-disciplinary, non-partisan organization dedicated to research and education on matters related to insolvency. ABI was founded in 1982 to provide the United States Congress and the public with unbiased analysis of and the Commercial Law League of America The Commercial Law League of America (CLLA) was founded in 1895 to elevate standards and improve the practice of Commercial Law, to encourage an honorable course of dealing among its members and among the profession at large, to promote uniformity of legislation in matters affecting . ABC offers specialty certification programs in business bankruptcy, consumer bankruptcy, and creditors' rights.
Other national programs include those of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in accounting professional liability, legal professional liability, and medical professional liability. The Estate Law Specialist Board, which was established by the National Association of Estate Planners Estate Planner, a professional that creates an estate plan. This professional works with an estate owner to maximize their goals. This is a legal and tax specialty for an attorney or an accountant. offers specialty certification in estate planning Estate Planning
The overall planning of a person's wealth, including the preparation of a will and the planning of taxes after the individual's death.
Contrary to popular belief, estate planning involves much more than preparing a will, and it is not only for the law, and the National Elder Law As of the early 2000s a relatively new specialty devoted to the legal issues of Senior Citizens, including estate planning, health care, Foundation certifies attorneys in the field of elder law.
The ABA revisited specialty certification as part of the Ethics 20004 revision of the model rules, and the ABA recognized that specialization is a reality in the modern practice of law. Model Rule 7.4 is now titled Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization. The rule continues the traditional delineation of patent and admiralty designations. Rule 7.4 also provides a basis for lawyers to state that they are certified as a specialist if they have been certified by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or an organization that has been accredited accredited
recognition by an appropriate authority that the performance of a particular institution has satisfied a prestated set of criteria.
cattle herds which have achieved a low level of reactors to, e.g. by the ABA. (5)
In 1990 the ABA published Model Standards for Specialty Areas, offering proposed standards for 24 areas of the law. The ABA's Standing Committee on Specialization believed that uniform standards would enhance public understanding of specialization plans. In 1992, the ABA delegated to the Standing Committee on Specialization, the task of creating standards for the accreditation of private, attorney certification organizations, and a mechanism for such accreditation.
Where We Are Now
In the aftermath of the Peel decision, several states revised their disciplinary rules Precepts, such as the Code of Professional Responsibility, that proscribe an attorney from taking certain actions in the Practice of Law.
Proceedings can be instituted to disbar an attorney who violates the disciplinary rules. to allow truthful communication about specialty certification. Currently there are 18 states that recognize ABA accreditation of certifying organizations in some form. In addition, there are 10 other states with specialty certification programs sponsored either by the bar association or a supreme court commission. There are seven states that require certified attorneys to include disclaimer language with an attorney's listing of a specialty certification. Finally, another seven states and the District of Columbia District of Columbia, federal district (2000 pop. 572,059, a 5.7% decrease in population since the 1990 census), 69 sq mi (179 sq km), on the east bank of the Potomac River, coextensive with the city of Washington, D.C. (the capital of the United States). do not restrict communication of specialty certification, nor do they have state sponsored programs. In all, 43 states either sponsor their own specialty certification programs, recognize ABA accreditation of certification programs, or do not prohibit communication by lawyers about specialty certification.
Looking at all the programs across the country, there are 34 areas of specialty certification, ranging from general national programs such as civil trial advocacy to specific state programs such as Ohio workers' compensation. Some of the older programs such as Florida's have many options, while other states limit the number of specialty areas that will be offered. In Arizona, the substantial involvement requirement of at least 50 percent of a lawyer's time necessarily limits the number of specialty certifications a lawyer can hold.
From a national perspective, there are three state programs that are leaders in the field of specialty certification: Florida, Texas, and California. These three states combined have over 14,000 certified specialists in 22 areas of the law. Florida has the most areas for certification with 19, covering everything from civil trial practice to aviation law.
One function of the ABA Standing Committee on Specialization has been to collect statistics on lawyer specialty certification programs nationwide which it has done for the past eight years. Below is a chart showing the growth on a national basis covering all the areas for state and private certifying organizations.
A look at the 2001 data as a whole reveals that the number of lawyers to whom specialty certificates have been issued continues to grow steadily. There are now 27,702 holders of specialty certificates in the legal profession, which represents a 4.3 percent increase over 2000. Overall the number of certified specialists has increased by 53.7 percent since the standing committee began keeping national statistics in 1994.
With respect to specific fields of practice, the mix of specialties in which certification is available has changed little. Civil trial advocacy continues to be the largest area in which specialty certification is sought, accounting for 26 percent of the total number of certificates that have been issued to date. The combined category of criminal law and criminal trial advocacy is the second most common area with 10 percent of the total, followed by family law with nine percent, and real estate, wills, trusts and estates and personal injury trial with eight percent each.
Growth rates Growth Rates
The compounded annualized rate of growth of a company's revenues, earnings, dividends, or other figures.
Remember, historically high growth rates don't always mean a high rate of growth looking into the future. for different specialties vary widely, but for the most recent data available, the rates mirror the patterns reported over the past five years. Areas growing faster than average, include workers' compensation, elder law, labor law labor law, legislation dealing with human beings in their capacity as workers or wage earners. The Industrial Revolution, by introducing the machine and factory production, greatly expanded the class of workers dependent on wages as their source of income. , and health law. With the exception of bankruptcy, the programs developed for these high-growth fields are relatively new. Balancing these high growth areas are more "traditional" practice areas in which certification is available. Programs in these areas, including criminal practice, family law, real estate and tax law, are older and more established.
The Standing Committee on Specialization sponsors an annual national roundtable that brings together program administrators and board members from state and private pro grams to discuss legal developments and emerging issues in the field. Participants are able to focus on developing approaches to the elimination of ethical, administrative and technical barriers to the growth of lawyer specialty certification. Recent issues confronting the legal system in general and lawyer specialty certification in specific include:
* Interruptions in full-time practice, such as being called to National Guard duty or maternity/paternity leave. How does such an interruption affect recertification recertification Recredentialing Graduate education A process in which a professional is periodically re-evaluated–eg, every 10 yrs by an accrediting body to assure continued provision of safe, high-quality health care in terms of full-time practice in the prior five years?
* Litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.
When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. requirements in fields where ADR ADR - Astra Digital Radio is becoming more prevalent;
* Appeals following denial of certification or recertification;
* Judges as certified specialists. In Texas and Florida, in most practice areas, judges can retain their certification;
* Ethics issues as they relate to certification and recertification.
The roundtable touches on issues of national relevance and allows participants to give their program's perspective on a variety of issues and learn from other programs' successes and failures.
The standing committee also serves as a clearinghouse for information, via electronic newsletters, and its Web site, and works with state bar associations and supreme courts to increase recognition of lawyer specialty certification in general and recognition of ABA accredited specialty certification programs in specific. This national perspective gives each state's program directors an opportunity to learn, pool knowledge, and expand their programs without recreating the wheel.
Where We Are Going
Lawyer specialization is here to stay. In an increasingly complex legal world, no lawyer can be competent in every field. For consumers, referring sources, and employers, specialty certification provides additional information about lawyers. For those attorneys who have made the effort to document their involvement in the field, there is personal satisfaction and professional cachet cachet /ca·chet/ (ka-sha´) a disk-shaped wafer or capsule enclosing a dose of medicine.
An edible wafer capsule used for enclosing an unpleasant-tasting drug. from the recognition by their peers.
Marketing will be the key to in. creased growth in the number of lawyers seeking specialty certification. By increasing public awareness of the value of stringent standards, continuing education requirements and positive peer review, the public will come to demand board certified board certified,
adj the status of a dental specialist such as an orthodontist who has become a board diplomate by successfully completing the certification program of the recognized certification board in that area of practice. lawyers for their legal work. By increasing lawyers' awareness of the value of specialty certification, the profession will be able to fulfill the ABA model plan's goals of providing greater access by the public to appropriate legal services; identifying and improving the quality and competence of legal setvices; and providing appropriate legal services at reasonable cost.
To that end, the standing committee is joining with other members of the specialty certification community to create a Strategic Communication Plan, which will help bring lawyer specialty certification into the 21st century. The Florida BLSE BLSE Banja Luka Stock Exchange
BLSE Battle Lab Support Element is currently expanding and customizing the Strategic Communications Plan for use in elevating awareness of certification in Florida. It is the vision of the standing committee that consumers of legal services better understand that certified legal specialists possess advanced training and expertise, that consumers rely on the certification to help them make informed decisions in finding and hiring a lawyer; and that lawyers understand the value of certification to their professional growth and practice development and seek certification in the areas of law in which they specialize.
Number of Certified Specialists 1994 18,018 1995 19,547 1996 21,016 1997 22,660 1998 24,033 1999 25,357 2000 26,502 2001 27,702 Note: Table made from bar graph
(1) Peel v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Illinois, 496 U.S. 91 (1990).
(2) See Standing Comm See comms. . on Specialization, American Bar The American Bar is a drinking establishment at the Savoy Hotel in London.
Opened in 1898 when cocktail were being first introduced to London.
The term American Bar comes from the 1930s when cocktails were first gaining popularity in the United States. Ass'n, Model Plan of Specialization (adopted by the House of Delegates August 15, 1979).
(3) The Ethics 2000 Commission was formed in 1997 to review the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. It submitted a report to the House of Delegates at the August 2001 Annual Meeting. The report was debated at the August 2001 annual and February 2002 midyear meetings. The changes to the model rules as amended during the debate were final at the end of the February 2002 Midyear Meeting.
(4) Model Rule 7.4(d).
John M. Brumbaugh is chair of the ABA Committee on Specialization and former chair of The Florida Bar's Board of Legal Specialization and Education. Tori Jo Wible is ABA staff counsel to the committee.