The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS) began operations in 1973 as the very first program in the country to provide a legal specialty certification program at the state level. The program includes eleven areas of specialization certified directly by the State Bar of California with an additional eleven areas certified by five different national organizations that have been accredited by the American Bar Association. One of the goals of the California Board of Legal Specialization is to give consumers another tool to use in selecting an attorney.
In February of 1971, California became the first state in the country to approve a legal certification program. The California Board of Legal Specialization ("CBLS") began operations in 1973. The first three practice areas for certification as a specialist were tax law, criminal law and workers' compensation.
Today, CBLS is the third-largest attorney specialization program in the United States. It offers specialty certification in twelve different legal practice areas. CBLS estimates that approximately 3% of practicing attorneys in California are certified by CBLS.
Under California Rule 1-400(D)(6), a lawyer may not claim he or she is a specialist unless he or she is certified by either the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization or an entity approved by the Board of Governors. Board certified lawyers in California may seek and obtain more than one certification if otherwise qualified.
The California Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS) consists of 15 members who meet approximately six times per year in the State of California Bar offices. Members also participate in at least one subcommittee via teleconference is mandatory. The members of CBLS recommend rules and provide policies and guidelines for the certification of specialists.
The eleven (11) legal practice areas certified directly by the State Bar of California include:
Lawyer Legion maintains a statewide directory of board certified lawyers in California. The public is able to browse the directory and narrow their search by specialty area, county or city to and connect with board certified lawyers to help with their case. Lawyer Legion is the only commercial lawyer directory to properly acknowledge all ABA-accredited specialization programs for both national and state-level board certifications, including those granted by the State Bar of California.
Use this directory to find board certified lawyers who are specialized in their respective areas of law. Start by choosing your county from the list below.
Eleven (11) legal practice areas are certified by five different organizations accredited by the State Bar of California including:
Requirements to qualify for certification in California may include:
Rule 9.35, adopted by the California Supreme Court, contains a provision authorizing the State Bar of California to adopt rules to establish and administer a program to certify legal specialists.
The Rules Governing the State Bar of California Program for Certifying Legal Specialists, adopted by the Board of Governors, contain the details of operation for the program. The Standards for Certification and Re-certification in each specialty area was adopted by the Board of Governors.
The costs of the legal specialization program are entirely paid for by annual fees, as well as certification, re-certification, and accreditation fees. Section 20.8 of the Rules mandate that California's specialization program be self-supporting. The program is not subsidized by the dues collected from attorneys by the California State Bar.
The annual budget for the program is prepared in accordance with the State Bar’s policies and directives and is subject to approval by the State Bar’s Board of Governors. According to the 23rd Annual Report of the CBLS dated May of 2010, for the 2009 calendar year, the total expenses for the program were $1,188,254, compared to the $1,529,052 that was budgeted.
One of the goals of the California Board of Legal Specialization is to give consumers another tool to use in selecting an attorney. Certified Legal Specialists are automatically listed by their specialty on the State Bar website and only certified specialists can be searched by practice area on the State Bar of California website using advanced search features.
The website also contains a separate search function to find a specialist by county. Users can search for anattorney by certified legal specialty area, and by county, with just two simple steps. Visit the State Bar of California's Certified Specialist Search page and select from 11 areas of law, in and out of state.