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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. The public also seeks 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?

The Washington bar rules for attorney advertising do allow attorneys to advertise their status as board certified by a qualifying national organization under certain conditions. If the attorney is issued a verifiable certificate, award, or recognition by a group, organization, or association, then Washington's Rule of Professional Conduct 7.4, attorneys may advertise their services while using the terms such as "certified," "specialist" or "expert." 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. The bar provides information on the best policies and procedures for WSBA Board, Committee, and Section volunteers.

Those WSBA practice sections include:

  • Administrative Law Section
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Section
  • Animal Law Section
  • Antitrust, Consumer Protection, and Unfair Business Practices Section
  • Business Law Section
  • Cannabis Law Section
  • Civil Rights Law Section
  • Construction Law Section
  • Corporate Counsel Section
  • Creditor Debtor Rights Section
  • Criminal Law Section
  • Elder Law Section
  • Environmental & Land Use Law Section
  • Family Law Section
  • Health Law Section
  • Indian Law Section
  • Intellectual Property Section
  • International Practice Section
  • Juvenile Law Section
  • Labor and Employment Law Section
  • Legal Assistance to Military Personnel Section
  • LGBT Law Section
  • Litigation Section
  • Low Bono Section
  • Real Property, Probate and Trust Section
  • Senior Lawyers Section
  • Solo and Small Practice Section
  • Taxation Section
  • World Peace Through Law Section
  • Meetings & 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.

At Lawyer Legion, we understand the important role that specialty certification plays in helping the public find an attorney in Washington.

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