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Rules of the Alabama Board of Legal Specialization

The Alabama State Bar Board of Legal Specialization was created to regulate the certification of lawyers as specialists by certifying agencies, so as to enhance public access to appropriate legal services. The rules that govern the program became effective on January 1, 1994.

Under Alabama's bar rules, a lawyer certified as a specialist in Alabama may communicate the fact that he or she is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law and the name of the particular certifying agency by which the lawyer is certified.

A lawyer in Alabama shall not represent, either expressly or impliedly, that he or she has specialty status recognized by any entity other than the certifying agency.

To defray expenses of the Alabama State Bar Board of Legal Specialization in administering these rules, the board may establish and collect reasonable fees from the certifying agencies and from the lawyers certified as specialists so that the board is self-sustaining.

The Duties of the Board Of Legal Specialization

Under Rule 2.01, the Board of Legal Specialization in Alabama must consist of 12 members appointed by the Board of Bar Commissioners.

The members must be lawyers regularly licensed in the state of Alabama across the various fields of legal practice, including general practice. Meetings of the board of legal specialization are held at regular intervals at such times and places and on such notice as the board may prescribe.

Although the board itself does not certify lawyers as specialists, the board does designate areas of legal practice subject to specialty designation.

The board also approves and regulates agencies qualified to certify lawyers as specialists in a particular field of law as certifying agencies and to adopt standards that certifying agencies must meet. The board also adopts standards for certifying lawyers as specialists.

Another purpose of the board is to keep appropriate records of lawyers certified as specialists by certifying agencies approved under these rules and to report to the Disciplinary Commission of the Alabama State Bar any attorney who may violate these rules or the board’s regulations or standards.

Standards for Agency Certification in Alabama

The standards for agency certification shall include, at a minimum, the regulations, and standards adopted by the board from time to time under these rules.

The regulations must not unlawfully discriminate against any lawyer properly qualified for certification as a specialist but must provide a reasonable basis for determining that a lawyer possesses special competence in a particular field of law.

The standards to become a board-certified attorney include:

  • a showing of substantial involvement in the specialty area during the three-year period immediately preceding application to the certifying agency;
  • peer recommendations from lawyers who are familiar with the competence of the lawyer seeking a specialty designation; none of the peer recommendations shall be from lawyers related to, or engaged in legal practice with, the lawyer;
  • objective evaluation of the lawyer’s knowledge of the substantive and procedural law in the specialty area, to be determined by written and/or oral examination; and
  • the examination shall include a part devoted to professional responsibility and ethics as it relates to the particular specialty.

Under Alabama's rules for specialty certification programs, the term “substantial involvement” is measured by the amount of time spent practicing in the specialty area: A minimum of 25 percent of the lawyer’s practice must be spent in the specialty area.

National Board Certification Programs in Alabama

Board Certified Attorneys in Alabama belong to several different national programs including:

National Board of Trial Advocacy

American Board of Certification

National Association of Estate Planners & Councils

National Elder Law Foundation

National College for DUI Defense

This article on specialty certification for attorneys was last updated on Friday, November 22, 2019.