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Legal Specialization

NEW! Legal Specialists in MCLE Group 2 (H-M) to report educational compliance by February 2, 2015

The legal specialization rule updates adopted effective on January 1, 2014 created a new schedule for the reporting of legal specialist educational compliance. 

Effective with the reporting cycle ending February 1, 2015, specialists will begin to report their legal specialist education compliance at the same time that they normally report MCLE compliance. For 2015, this means that certified specialists who are in MCLE Group 2 (Last names H-M) will need to report their legal specialist education compliance any time between December 1, 2014 and February 2, 2015 using a paper form that will be provided to all individuals in that group in December. Group 2 certified specialists will be required to report 36 hours of education over the three years ending January 31, 2015 by February 2, 2015.  Note that under the old reporting (60 hours over 5 years) and the current reporting (36 hours every three years), an average of twelve hours is required. 

There will be certain flexible choices during this first reporting period to allow members to claim credit toward the 36 hour total for courses in anticipation of your recertification, but completed more than three, and less than five, years ago. 

For those subjects that normally requires specialists to take education in specific areas (not just legal specialist approved education, but also special topics within that), those requirements will be waived for simplicity during this reporting period.

There is no fee to file this educational compliance.

In future years, certified specialists will be able to report legal specialist education compliance online, but for now, you will need to do a separate reporting at the same time.

Certified specialists will still recertify every five years, and the application will change to allow a specialist to note that they have complied on time, and that they know their next compliance date.

In the meantime, all certified specialists who file a recertification applications in 2014 should do so in the same way as it has been done in the past, including reporting 60 hours of education over the past five years.

Becoming a certified specialist

  • Why certify? Learn more about why to certify by watching this short video.
  • Read about one attorney's path to becoming a board certified legal specialist.
  • Happy Anniversary to those Certified Specialists reaching their 20th, 30th and 40th year in their specialty as of 2013. View a list of

     Certified Specialists celebrating these milestones as of 2013.

  • Starting the Application Process?

    Although the next Certified Legal Specialist examination isn't until October 27, 2015, you can begin your preparation toward the other requirements by reviewing the rules and standards to learn the requirements and the post-examination application to see how you will need to document compliance with the requirements and which documents you will need.  Preliminary information about the examination is also posted.

    Applicants can find locations in Northern California and Southern California. The examination date and logistics will be posted in Spring 2015 and information about preparation courses that is passed on to the Department will be shared on the individual legal specialty pages as the information is received.

    Passed the 2011 or 2013 examination?

    Congratulations!  You are ready to file the post-examination application.  All applications for those who passed the examination in 2011 are due on or before January 31, 2015.  Those who passed the 2013 examination must file post-examination applications or requests for extension by April 23, 2015, which is eighteen months after the examination date.  The maximum extension that can be considered with good cause shown is through January 31, 2017.

    Already a certified specialist?

    It's time to enjoy the many benefits of being a certified specialist:

    • Download the certified specialist logo and terms of use. Certified legal specialists are entitled to use this logo free of charge on their e-mail, letterhead, website and other outreach materials.
    • Rules have been Reorganized. Effective January 1, 2014 the State Bar has reorganized the rules governing the program in Legal Specialization primarily to make them easier to read. As part of this reorganization, effective in 2015, specialists will begin to report their legal specialist education at the same time that they normally report MCLE (36 hours of specialist education every three years). More information will be forthcoming on full procedures. In the meantime, anyone recertifying this year (2014) should do so in the same way as it has been done in the past, including 60 hours of education over the past five years.
    • Update your profile through My State Bar Profile to add your firm's website, photo and spoken languages. 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.
    • Ready to retire or resign your Certified Legal Specialist status permanently? Fill out the Certified Specialist Retirement/Resignation Form and send it to the address on the form.
    • Need brochures for your office? Order "What Can A Certified Specialist Do for You?" brochures, which include a place for you to include your own firm's business cards.
    • Want to be on the radio? San Francisco Bay Area certified specialists can audition to be part of the radio call-in panel for "Your Legal Rights" to appear on-air or take off-air calls. Contact if you are interested.

    For educational providers

    Apply to offer Legal Specialization credits and MCLE.

    Search for a list of approved educational providers in your area of certified specialty.

    News you can use 

    • Attached is the 27th Annual Report of the Legal Specialization Program covering the year 2013.
    • Come see us! 
      • October 20, 2014: We will be at the DOL Symposium on issues related to admiralty and workers' compensation.
      • January 22-25, 2014: We will be at the CAAA Winter Conference in San Diego.
      • The rules governing legal specialization were reorganized effective Jan. 1, 2014. For 2014, please continue to use the current forms for certification and re-certification located on this website.  New guidelines will be posted for those who  have an MCLE reporting deadline in 2015 and for those certifying in 2015 and beyond.
    • Read about the importance of certified specialist status to consumers and attorneys here: Q+A Legal Specialization a Boon for Consumers.
    • Don't miss the radio program on KALW 91.7FM "Your Legal Rights," featuring certified specialists from around the state every Wednesday at 7 p.m. Not in San Francisco? Download the free Tune-In app for Android or Apple to listen.
    • Refer a specialist. Search by county, city or ZIP code for a certified specialist in your area.
    • Submit articles for the Legal Specialization Digest of up to 500 words to

    Contact Us

    Contact us at or 415-538-2120.

    Contact Us

    Department of Legal Specialization
    Office of Admissions

    State Bar of California
    180 Howard St.
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    Fax: 415-538-2180

    For consumers

    Find certified legal specialists in your county or try the Advanced Search tool to locate attorneys who speak specific languages or practice in certain cities.

    Board-certified legal specialists have:

    • demonstrated their competence
    • received specialized education
    • shown commitment in one of 11 areas of law practice administered through the State Bar of California or 11 additional areas through our certifying partners

    Learn more in this short video.