Florida Board of Legal Specialization & Education
In 1982, the Florida Supreme Court established a process to recognize attorneys who take the extra steps necessary to have their experience and competence evaluated for a particular specialty area of the law. Board Certification is the highest level of evaluation offered by the Florida Bar.
As the second largest attorney specialization program in the country, more than 4,800 attorneys in Florida have been designated as board-certified specialists in 26 different specialty areas of the law. Approximately 4.7% of the 101,000 practicing attorneys in Florida are certified by the Florida Bar as a specialist.
Board Certification Awards include The Justice Harry Lee Anstead Award for Florida Bar Board Certified Lawyer of the Year and the Award for Excellence in the Promotion of Board Certification.
A recent article dated on July 15, 2015, published in The Florida Bar News show that the gender gap for board certification statewide is 80 percent men to 20 percent women.
Contact the Florida Bar for More InformationFlorida Bar Board of Legal Specialization
651 East Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2300
Phone: (850) 561-5655
Visit the BLSE Website
Under Florida's Bar Rules, board certified attorneys receive special bar-sanctioned, advertising-based benefits not afforded to other attorneys in the state. Only board certified attorneys are allowed to use the words "Board Certified (area of certification) Lawyer" or "Specialist in (area of certification)." The Florida Bar rules also approved the use of the initials “B.C.S.” to indicate Board Certified Specialist.
In 2007, the Florida Bar requested and a majority of the Florida Supreme Court approved amendments to the rules regulating advertising of legal certifications to allow individual lawyers to identify themselves as “experts.” See In re Amendments to the Rules Regulating the Fla. Bar, 978 So.2d 91 (Fla. 2007); In re Amendments to the Rules Regulating the Fla. Bar-Advertising, 971 So.2d 763 (Fla. 2007).
The program was reviewed in Doe v. Fla Bar, 630 F3d 1336 (11th Cir. 2011)(constitutional arguments by an attorney who failed peer review requirements of state certification by specialty organization rejected).
Board certification will last for five years. During the five-year period, board certified Florida lawyers must continue to attend continuing legal education courses for their specialty. After five years the attorney must seek recertification. Lawyers may obtain as many certifications as they wish, as long as they meet the specific criteria for that specialty.
In 2015, 192 attorneys earned this important designation. In 2016, 189 attorneys became board certified.
Requirements for Attorney Board Certification in Florida
For an attorney to become board-certified by the state, he or she must meet minimum requirements. Those requirements include:
- At least five years of practice as an attorney;
- Substantial involvement in the practice area he or she is seeking to become certified in;
- Peer review of competence in the specialty area, character, ethics, and professionalism;
- Completing a specified amount of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) hours; and
- Passing an exam or meeting certain criteria that exempt the attorney from the exam.
Specialty Practice Areas for Board Certification in Florida
The Florida Board of Legal Specialization and Education certifies attorneys in twenty-four (24) select areas of the law including:
- Admiralty & Maritime Law - Definition - The term "admiralty and maritime law" is defined as the practice of law dealing with the rules, concepts and legal practice governing vessels, the shipping industry, the carrying of goods and passengers by water as well as related maritime concepts. Read more about Admiralty and Maritime Law.
- Adoption Law - The term "adoption law" is defined as "the practice of law dealing with the complexities and legalities of interstate and intrastate adoption placements, including civil controversies arising from termination of the biological parents’ parental rights, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and interstate placements." Read more about Adoption Law.
- Antitrust & Trade Regulation Law - The term "antitrust and trade regulation law" is defined to cover the practice of law "dealing with anti-competitive conduct or structure that may reduce consumer welfare in the United States" as well as "deceptive, unfair, or unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair methods of competition under the Federal Trade Commission Act and Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act."
- Appellate Practice - The term "appellate practice' is defined as dealing with "recognition and preservation of error committed by lower tribunals, and the presentation of argument concerning the presence or absence of such error to state or federal appellate courts through brief writing, writ and motion practice and oral argument." Read more about Appellate Practice.
- Aviation Law - The term "aviation law" is defined as the practice of law dealing with "the ownership, maintenance, and use of aircraft, airports and airspace." Read more about Aviation Law.
- Business Litigation - The term "business litigation" is defined as the practice of law dealing with "the legal problems arising from commercial and business relationships including litigation of controversies arising from those relationships." Business litigation law includes "evaluating, handling and resolving such controversies before state courts, federal courts, administrative agencies, mediators, and arbitrators." The term business litigation does not include marital and family law, routine collection matters, personal injury or workers' compensation. Read more about Business Litigation.
- City, County & Local Government Law - The term "city, county and local government law" is defined as the practice of law dealing with legal issues of county, municipal or other local governments. Read more about City, County or Local Government Law.
- Civil Trial - Definition - The term "civil trial law" is the practice of law dealing with litigation of civil controversies in all areas of law before state courts, federal courts, administrative agencies, and arbitrators. Read more about Civil Trial Law.
- Construction Law - The term "construction law" is defined as "matters relating to the design and construction of improvements on private and public projects."
- Criminal Appellate - The term "criminal appellate law" is defined as the practice of law dealing with the defense and prosecution of misdemeanor and felony crimes in state and federal appellate courts. Criminal appellate law deals with recognition and preservation of error committed by lower tribunals in criminal cases, and the presentation of argument concerning the presence or absence of such error to state or federal appellate courts.
- Criminal Trial - The term "criminal law' is defined as the practice of law dealing with "the defense and prosecution of misdemeanor and felony crimes in state and federal trial courts." Read more about Criminal Trial Law.
- Education Law - The term "education law” is defined as the practice of law involving the legal rights, responsibilities, operations, contract matters and procedures of public or private educational institutions, students, parents and individuals employed by or on behalf of educational institutions. Read more about Education Law.
- Elder Law - The term "elder law" involves representing the elderly, seniors and the disabled. It encompasses all aspects of planning for aging, illness, and incapacity. Read more about Elder Law;
- Health Law - The term "health law" is defined as the practice of law involving "federal, state or local law and rules or regulations regarding the delivery of health care services. In addition to health care provider issues and regulations of providers, health law includes legal issues regarding relationships between and among providers and payers." Read more aabout Health Law.
- Immigration & Nationality - The term "immigration and nationality law" is the practice of law dealing with all aspects of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. Read more about Immigration and Nationality.
- Intellectual Property Law - For purposes of Florida's board certification program the term "intellectual property law" is defined to include four sub-specialty areas – patent application prosecution, patent infringement litigation, trademark law, or copyright law.
- International Law - The term "international law" is defined as the practice of law dealing with "issues, problems, or disputes arising from any and all aspects of the relations between or among states and international organizations as well as the relations between or among nationals of different countries." Read more about International Law.
- Juvenile Law - The term "juvenile law" is defined as the areas of the law that inherently and directly impact children. Juvenile law generally includes dependency, delinquency, and termination of parental rights matters. For purposes of the new proposal, the term "juvenile law" does not include adoption matters or other types of family law proceedings that are not consolidated with dependency or termination of parental rights matters.
- Labor & Employment Law - The term "labor and employment law" includes "advice and representation concerning the application and interpretation of public and private sector labor and employment law principles, as well as employment discrimination and employment-related civil rights law."
- Marital & Family Law - The term "marital and family law” is defined as the practice of law dealing with "legal problems arising from the family relationship of husband and wife and parent and child, including civil controversies arising from those relationships." Read more about Marital and Family Law.
- Real Estate Law - The term "real estate law" is defined as "matters relating to ownership and rights in real property including, but not limited to, the examination of titles, real estate conveyances and other transfers, leases, sales and other transactions involving real estate, condominiums, cooperatives, property owners associations and planned developments, interval ownership, zoning and land use planning regulation, real estate development and financing, real estate litigation, and the determination of property rights." Read more about Real Estate Law.
- State & Federal Government & Administrative Practice - The term "state and federal government and administrative practice" is defined as the practice of law on behalf of public or private clients on matters including but not limited to rulemaking or adjudication associated with state or federal government entity actions such as contracts, licenses, orders, permits, policies, or rules.
- Tax Law - The term "tax law" refers to legal issues pertaining to federal, state or local income, estate, gift, ad valorem, excise or other taxes. Read more about Tax Law.
- Wills, Trusts & Estates - The term "wills, trusts and estate law" is the practice of law "dealing with all aspects of planning for the conservation and disposition of estates, giving due consideration to the applicable tax consequences, both federal and state; the preparation of legal instruments to effectuate estate plans; administering estates, including tax related matters; and probate litigation." Read more about Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law.
- Workers' Compensation - The term "workers' compensation" refers to "the analysis and litigation of problems or controversies arising out of the Florida Workers' Compensation Law." Read more about Workers' Compensation Law.
Florida's Newly Proposed Specialty Certification for "Juvenile Law"
In October of 2013, the Florida Supreme Court received a submission for a new board certification area of Juvenile Law. The submission was approved by the Florida Board of Legal Specialization and Education as a proposal from the Legal Needs of Children Committee and the Public Interest Law Section.
The term "juvenile law" is defined as the areas of the law that inherently and directly impact children.
Juvenile law generally includes dependency, delinquency, and termination of parental rights matters. For purposes of the new proposal, the term "juvenile law" does not include adoption matters or other types of family law proceedings that are not consolidated with dependency or termination of parental rights matters.
National Organizations Accredited in Florida
The Florida Board of Legal Specialization and Education (BLSE) may accredit national or third-party organizations to certify lawyers in certain practice areas. Currently, those organizations include:
National Organizations Not Accredited in Florida
Effective May 1, 2013, the Florida Bar’s new rules on attorney advertising took effect. Attorneys that practice in Florida should read the rules in their entirety. See In re: Amendments to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar – Subchapter 4-7, Lawyer Advertising Rules, 38 Fla. L. Weekly S47 (Fla. Jan. 31, 2013).
Under one of the new rules, Florida Bar Rule 4-7.14(a)(4), an attorney who had earned board certification from an organization recognized by the American Bar Association ("ABA") but not accredited in Florida can now disclose that designation in advertisements. The ad must contain a disclaimer that the attorney is "Not Certified as a Specialist by The Florida Bar."
The national organizations with board or specialty certification programs that are recognized by the ABA, but not certified by the Florida Bar include:
- the National Elder Law Foundation;
- the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys;
- the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils;
- the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC); and
- the National College for DUI Defense®, Inc. (NCDD).
Attorneys who are board certified in those five (5) organizations now have the right to communicate that fact to the public in attorney advertisements.
Disclaimer: Lawyer Legion is not endorsed or approved by any state or national board certification program or by any state bar including the Florida Bar. This article was last updated on Friday, February 17, 2017.