Specialty Certification in Washington State

Although any attorney licensed to practice law by the Washington State Bar is qualified to provide legal services within the state, most attorneys focus on particular practice areas of the law. From a marketing perspective, potential clients often seek out attorneys who have greater experience in a particular practice area.

In Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, the United States Supreme Court found that it was unconstitutional to prohibit lawyers from advertising. In 1990, the court decided Peel v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee, which court permitted attorneys to communicate information about their specialty practice in advertisements, with some limitations.

Does the Washington State Bar Association recognize board certified attorneys or allow them to advertise their designation as a certified specialist from a national board certification program?

Under Washington’s Rule of Professional Conduct 7.4, attorneys may advertise using the terms such as “certified,” “specialist,” or “expert,” if the attorney is issued a verifiable certificate, award, or recognition by a group, organization, or association. The attorney must also identify the certifying organization in the advertisement.

Additionally, the attorney must also list a disclaimer explaining that "the Supreme Court of Washington does not recognize certification of specialties in the practice of law and that the certificate, award, or recognition is not a requirement to practice law in the state of Washington."

Practice Sections of the Washington State Bar Association

The Washington State Bar Association also encourages attorneys practicing in a niche area of the law through its 27 practice sections. Members of a section can receive free CLEs, training materials, and invitations to networking events.

Specialty Bar Associations in Washington

Attorneys in the state of Washington also join specialty bar associations at the national and state level including:

  • Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers;
  • Washington Defense Trial Lawyers;
  • Washington Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association;
  • Washington Appellate Lawyers Association;
  • Association of Corporate Counsel - Washington Chapter;
  • Washington State Association for Justice;
  • Washington Employment Lawyers Association;
  • Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys;
  • Federal Bar Association of the Western District of Washington;
  • Washington Lawyers for Sustainability;
  • Government Lawyers Bar Association of Washington;
  • Washington Lawyers for the Arts;
  • Washington State Society of Health Care Attorneys;
  • Washington Defender Association; and
  • Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

This article was last updated on May 25, 2017.