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American Board of Certification (ABC)

American Board of Certification

The American Board of Certification (ABC) is a non-profit organization created to help attorneys improve the quality of the bankruptcy and creditors' rights bars. Dian Gilmore is the executive director of the American Board of Certification, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Sponsored by the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) and the Commercial Law League of America, the ABC has certified nearly 1,000 attorneys. 

By setting the highest standards for attorneys in these specialty areas of the law, the ABC demands that attorneys strive for excellence. At the same time, the ABC provides the public with an objective standard to find a qualified attorney.

Additionally, Congress has given authority over “the amount of reasonable compensation to be awarded to ... [a] professional person” to the bankruptcy courts. The bankruptcy “court shall consider the nature, the extent, and the value of such services, taking into account all relevant factors, including ... with respect to a professional person, whether the person is board certified or otherwise has demonstrated skill and experience in the bankruptcy field.” 11 U.S.C. §330(a)(3).

Contact Information

American Board of Certification
4403 1st Avenue SE. Suite 113
Cedar Rapids IA 52402
Phone: (319) 365-2222
Toll-Free: (877) 365-2221
Fax: (319) 363-0127

2018 Exam Schedule for the ABC

The 2018 exam schedule for the American Board of Certification (ABC) occurs in partnership with the upcoming conferences of the American Bankruptcy Institute (API). The API is the largest association of bankruptcy professionals in the United States, made up of more than 12,000 members in multi-disciplinary roles, including attorneys, bankers, accountants, professors, judges, auctioneers, turnaround specialists, and others.

For attorneys who are unable to travel for the examination, the ABC provides an opportunity to take the exam in the attorney's office for an additional $75 fee that pays for a proctor to come to your office to administer the test. The ABC Prep Course Task provides a new prep course available to potential applications for $295 at www.abi.org/abcprep/.

Connection Between the ABI and the ABC

The American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) is an organization with the largest community of insolvency professionals in the bankruptcy industry. Many of the members are not lawyers. The American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) does not certify its lawyer members as bankruptcy law experts or offer any credential of expertise beyond the fact of membership.

Instead, credentialing is done by The American Board of Certification, an independent sister organization created 25 years ago by leading members of the ABI. The American Board of Certification has three ABA-accredited programs including:

Consumer Bankruptcy

Consumer bankruptcies typically include Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcies but could include any bankruptcy proceeding in which the attorney represents an individual debtor, rather than a business or an entity.

To become certified by ABC, the lawyer must have substantially participated in at least 30 contested matters of consumer bankruptcy, no more than five of which may be of the same type.

A board-certified consumer bankruptcy attorney must also show substantial involvement in the field of bankruptcy, including that he or she devoted at least 30 percent of his or her practice time in the previous three years to bankruptcy, and that that time consisted of at least 400 hours. The attorney must be in good standing in all states in which he or she is licensed to practice.

Business Bankruptcy

Businesses bankruptcies are most often Chapter 11, but may include any matter in which the debtor was engaged in business prior to filing. The American Board of Certification requires that applicants for certification as a Business Bankruptcy Specialist must have "substantially participated" in at least 30 adversarial proceedings or contested matters in Chapter 7, Chapter 9, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, or Chapter 13 cases. The ABC requires that no more than three of the proceedings or contested matters should be of a single type.

The term "substantial participation" is defined to include not just court appearances, but may also include "briefing, argument, interrogation of witnesses, negotiation of settlements or workouts, or drafting.

The activity must relate to an adversary proceeding or contested matter and must have been substantial in relation to the total efforts devoted to the adversary proceeding or contested matter."

Additionally, a board-certified business bankruptcy lawyer must be an active member of the State Bar of at least one state and a member in good standing of the State Bar in all states in which the applicant is licensed to practice (or was a member in good standing at the time any license may have been voluntarily surrendered).

Creditors' Rights

The American Board of Certification requires that applicants to become a certified Creditors' Rights Specialists Attorney must have devoted at least 30% of their practice time to creditors' rights law during the prior three years. The applicant must also show he or she devoted at least 400 hours during that time to the practice of creditors' rights law.

The attorney must show completion of 60 hours of CLE in creditors' rights during the prior three years. Additionally, the attorney must list the names of nine attorneys who can attest to the attorney's competence in creditors' rights law.

Finally, the attorney must have substantially participated in at least thirty creditors' rights matters, with no more than three of those matters being in a single category. Matters related to creditors' rights include:

  • Pre-trial and post-trial motions, discovery, trial or hearing before a court or other tribunal;
  • Active involvement in FDCPA matters;
  • Enforcement of sister-state judgments;
  • Pre-judgment and post-judgment execution;
  • UCC matters;
  • Mechanics liens and related liens;
  • Assignments for the benefit of creditors;
  • Fraudulent conveyance and preferential transfers;
  • Foreclosure actions;
  • Receiverships;
  • Priority disputes;
  • Consumer collections;
  • Business collections; and
  • Consumer bankruptcy or business bankruptcy matters, including
    • non-dischargeability;
    • preferences;
    • automatic stay;
    • reclamation; and
    • objections to claim and other matters.

The requirements of "substantial involvement" are waived for any person who has served as a full-time active judge for three of the last five years.

Additionally, certain requirements may be waived for any person who as served as a full-time professor of law at an ABA-accredited law school and who has taught at least one creditors' rights law course or bankruptcy law course during each of the last five years.

Finding a Bankruptcy Attorney

At Lawyer Legion, we understand the important role that specialty certification programs play in helping the public find a bankruptcy attorney for a case involving consumer bankruptcy, business bankruptcy, or creditors' rights. The ABC has emerged as the premier certification organization for bankruptcy lawyers throughout the United States.

Specialty certification programs, at both the state and national level, help the public find board certified attorneys. For more than 30 years, specialty certification has provided the public with a good way to find an attorney based on their main practice area including bankruptcy law.

This article was last updated on Friday, November 22, 2019.