At Lawyer Legion, we understand the importance of specialty certification programs. We created a feature on our directory to narrow the search to only Tennessee attorneys who have earned specialty certification.
The Tennessee Commission on CLE and Specialization (TCCLES) maintains a Roll of Certified Specialists in Tennesse, although it no longer issues a separate state certification.
After an attorney in Tennessee is certified by a qualifying national organization, the attorney should contact the TCCLES to become registered on the Roll of Certified Specialists.
The registered board certified specialist must pay an annual registration fee to the TCCLES. The annual registration fee is in addition to any fees charged by the national agencies.
To advertise as a certified specialist, an attorney must be certified by a national certification agency. Attorneys who are not certified must disclose that fact in any unsolicited communication to a prospective client, such as yellow pages or newspaper ads, radio or TV commercials or direct mail pieces. The applicable provisions of Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) 7.4.
Prior to January 1, 2015, The Tennessee Commission on CLE and Specialization (TCCLES) had authority over the certification of attorneys as specialists and the accreditation of organizations that certify attorneys.
On January 1, 2015, TCCLE stopped approving Tennessee Specialist certifications. For attorneys holding a certification that expired on June 30, 2015, the certification will continue to be shown on the TCCLES website until the certification expires. After June 30, 2015, those attorneys are required to comply with the rules regarding the registration of specialists found in Rule 21; Section 11.
At last count, Tennessee had nearly 300 attorneys who were certified as a specialist in at least one of fourteen different practice areas.
Effective on January 1, 2015, Rule 21; Section 11 provides:
11.01. Lawyers licensed to practice law in Tennessee may be certified as being a legal-specialist by any organization that has been accredited by the American Bar Association's House of Delegates to award specialist certifications to lawyers.
11.02. Each lawyer who has received a certification as a specialist shall register the certification with the Commission. The Commission shall confirm that the certification presented by the specialist has been issued from an organization that has been accredited by the American Bar Association's House of Delegates to award specialist certifications to lawyers. However, the Commission shall have no authority to certify any lawyer practicing in this State as being a specialist in any area of law.
11.03. Upon confirmation that a lawyer has received a specialist certification from an appropriate certifying organization, the Commission shall record the following information in the form of a Roll of Certified Specialists:
(a) the lawyer's name;
(b) the lawyer's Board of Professional Responsibility registration number;
(c) the state and county in which the lawyer maintains the lawyer's principal office;
(d) the name, address, and current website of the certifying organization;
(e) the area or areas of law in which the lawyer has obtained a specialty certification; and
(f) the date on which the lawyer obtained the specialty certification.
11.04. Each lawyer shall renew the lawyer's registration annually with the Commission and, in so doing, shall represent that the specialty certification remains valid. If a lawyer's certification of specialty has expired, or is withdrawn or revoked for any reason, the lawyer must report such fact to the Commission within fifteen (15) days of the expiration, withdrawal or revocation. If a lawyer fails to renew the specialty certification, or if the lawyer notifies the Commission of the expiration, withdrawal or revocation of a specialty certification, the Commission shall immediately remove the lawyer's information from the Roll of Certified Specialists.
Until January 1, 2015, the Commission certified attorneys as specialists in fourteen areas: Civil Trial, Criminal Trial, Consumer Bankruptcy, Business Bankruptcy, Creditors Rights, Accounting Malpractice, Legal Malpractice, Medical Malpractice, Estate Planning, Elder Law, Family Law, Juvenile Law, DUI Defense, and Social Security Disability.
TCCLES consists of 11 members, nine of whom are attorneys, appointed by the Supreme Court of Tennessee. The Commission has the power to regulate continuing legal education and attorney specialization.
Attorneys who are certified by an accredited organization have achieved significant experience in a specific areas of the law, maintained legal malpractice insurance, passed a written examination, attended continuing legal educational (CLE) seminars, and received positive references from other attorneys who are familiars with their practice and good character.
Attorneys must also follow the applicable bar rules related to attorney advertising when communicating their status as a certified specialist including Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) 7.4.
The process for attorneys in Tennessee to become certified specialists prior to January 1, 2015, involved a two steps. First, the attorney was certified in the appropriate field by the appropriate national agency. Second, the attorney would do the following:
Once the attorney submitted a copy of his or her certificate from the organization and met the minimum requirements, TCCLES would certify the attorney. After the certification process was complete, the attorney was permitted to advertise as a specialist.
Approved Certifying Organizations
The Tennessee Commission on CLE & Specialization recognizes the following organizations to certify attorneys whoo practice law in Tennessee:
Different Specialist Practice Areas Approved for Certification
Different practice areas for certification by national organizations include:
Contact Information for TCCLESTennessee Supreme Court Commission on CLE & Specialization
Roll of Certified Legal Specialist in Tennessee - The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education & Specialization previously maintained a directory to locate a certified specialist in Tennessee by selecting the specialty, selecting the city, and clicking on the "Submit" button. Now TCCLES maintains a Roll of Certified Specialist.
How to Become a Board Certified Specialist in Tennessee - Visit the TCCLES website to find out why the Commission no longer approves Tennessee Specialist certifications as of January 1, 2015. The website explains the rules for regarding the registration of specialists found in Rule 21; Section 11. Find a list of specialty practice areas recognized by the Commission.
Online Tennessee Attorney Directory - Visit the website for the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility TBPR to find an Online Attorney Directory. The directory provides the public with information about the attorney including their full name, office address, and any public Informational Releases issued by the Board concerning the attorney. The TBPR online directory is a good way to determine whether the Tennessee lawyer is active and in good standing to practice law in Tennessee. The directory can also help the public determine if the attorney has been disbarred or suspended as a result of imposed disciplinary actions, failure to meet Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements, non-compliance with IOLTA reporting, failure to pay the annual Professional Privilege Tax, or failure to pay annual attorney's dues.
If you need to find an attorney in Tennessee then consider the benefits of beginning your search with a certified specialist. These attorneys have demonstrated their commitment to a specialty practice. These programs provide a powerful tool for the public when they begin their search for an attorney.
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 Tennessee.
This article was last updated on Friday, November 22, 2019.