North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization

North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization

In 1985, the North Carolina State Bar created the Board of Legal Specialization. Beginning in 1987, the board started designating certain attorneys as "board certified" or "legal certified specialist" in various practice areas.

Board certification remains an effective way to help the public find a qualified attorney. The certification validates a claim by an attorney of specialization in a particular area of the law. Today, approximately 3.7% of registered attorneys in North Carolina are certified specialists in their field. As of September 2, 2016, North Carolina has more than 1,000 Board Certified Specialists in a community of approximately 27,000 attorneys.

Pursuant to Rule 7.4 of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct of the North Carolina State Bar, an attorney in North Carolina is not permitted to claim that he or she is a "specialist" or an "expert" unless the attorney has been certified as a specialist by the North Carolina State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization.

The state also allows board-certified attorneys in North Carolina to use the specialist designation if the attorney has been certified by an organization approved by the American Bar Association ("ABA") to grant specialty certification.

Different Areas of Specialization in NC

Currently, North Carolina recognizes fifteen (15) areas of specialization including:

The Board of Legal Specialization recently announced the new board certified specialists for 2015 which brings the total number to more than 1,000.  

Minimum Requirements for Specialty Certification in NC

The requirements for certification in each particular practice area is set out in 27 NCAC 1D, Sections .2100 through .3100. The minimum requirements for certification as a legal specialist in North Carolina generally include:

  • being in good standing to practice law in the State of North Carolina;
  • showing "substantial involvement" in the practice area for at least five years prior to making the application;
  • completing certain continuing legal education (CLE) classes in the specialty practice area during a three-year cycle prior to making application;
  • submitting to peer review by other attorney and judges familiar with the attorney's practice; and
  • passing a written examination.

Publications by the North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization

The North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization also publishes a newsletter called "The Specialist" that profiles attorneys who have earned the designation of "board certified specialist." The newsletter helps other attorneys understand the benefits of seeking board certification. In the articles, the attorneys answer questions such as:

  • Why did you pursue certification?
  • Has certification been helpful to your practice?
  • Who are your best referral sources?
  • How does your certification benefit your clients?
  • Is certification important in your practice area?
  • How does specialization benefit the public or the profession?
  • How has your certification been a part of shaping your legal career?
  • What would you say to encourage other lawyers to pursue certification?

ABA-Accredited Certification Programs

Pursuant to North Carolina Rule 7.4, North Carolina lawyers who are certified by ABA accredited organizations may advertise their certification in the same way as lawyers who are certified by the North Carolina State Bar. Those organizations include:

  • National College for DUI Defense, Inc.;
  • National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (formerly the National Board of Trial Advocacy);
  • American Board of Certification;
  • National Elder Law Foundation;
  • American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys;
  • National Association of Counsel for Children; and
  • National Association of Estate Planners & Councils.

Contact Information

North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization

208 Fayetteville Street
P.O. Box 25908
Raleigh, NC 27611-5908
Phone: (919) 828-4620

At Lawyer Legion, we recognize the importance of specialty certification programs. Lawyer Legion is not endorsed or approved by any state or national board certification program or by any bar association including the State Bar of North Carolina.

This article was last updated on Friday, September 2, 2016.