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."
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:
Attorneys in the state of Washington also join specialty bar associations at the national and state level including:
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.