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What is a Board Certified Legal Specialist?

North Carolina is in the minority of US states that offer an attorney specialist program. Attorneys can’t call themselves legal specialists unless they meet the requirements to be certified by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. This article refers to specialists in family law. According to their website, the purpose of designating legal specialists to help “consumers to identify lawyers who have experience and skill in a certain area of practice.”

Candidates must successfully complete a six-hour written exam, similar to the bar exam but specifically for family law. There are a number of requirements to be met before the candidate may sit for the exam. The attorney must be “substantively involved” in family law for at least 5 years. Additionally, an attorney must have specific continuing education classes during the three years when the attorney applies to take the exam. The last requirement is peer review, demonstrated by references from ten lawyers or judges who are familiar with the attorney’s “competence and qualification of the applicant in family law.” References cannot be related to the attorney or colleague of his or hers. Once designated as a specialist, there are certain continuing education requirements, and every five years the attorney must be recertified and once again present references.

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