The first step in becoming a certified specialist is to register for the one-day legal specialist certification examination held:

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017
At the Oakland Convention Center and at the Pasadena Convention Center

The certification process consists of an exam (given every two years) plus a post-exam application filed after passing the examination detailing the candidate's completion of required tasks, experience and education, as well as recommendations.  Applicants are encouraged to look at all of the requirements at the start of the process and to begin keeping track of experience and education even before taking the examination to speed processing of the application;  alternatively, some applicants wait until after they have completed the examination.

Applicants practicing in the specialty area since January 2016 may be eligible to sit for the examination and can apply if they believe that they will be able to complete the task and experience requirements within three years after the Examination (January 2021 - extended to reflect that many lawyers begin practice in January after passing the Bar Examination).

The education, experience and reference requirements can be completed before the examination or afterward, as you choose.  Track education by saving your certificates of participation today, whether for legal specialist approved courses or MCLE courses in your specialty field for which you will petition for credit. Track tasks and experience, by downloading a Post-Exam Application to begin monitoring compliance with the Program Rules and Standards. Though you will not file the application until after you pass the examination, it can be helpful to use as a guide and to help provide a roadmap for the type of experiences you may seek at your firm.

To be eligible for certification, an attorney must generally:

  1. Be an active member of The State Bar of California
  2. Have been engaged in the practice of law in the area in which certification is sought for a minimum of 25 percent of the time the attorney has spent in occupational endeavors during each of the previous five years in which they have practiced law 
  3. Demonstrate a high level of experience in the specialty field by meeting specific task and experience requirements as listed in the Rules and Standards.
  4. Complete at least 45 hours of continuing education in the specialty field or a closely related field
  5. Be favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges who are familiar with the tasks upon which the applicant has relied to satisfy the task requirement

Specific Requirements by Certified Specialty Area

Please review the general program rules and specific specialty standards (below) to view the requirements for certification in your specialty. Closer to the examination, packets will be posted free of charge and will contain actual sample questions and more details about the examination.  

Once certification has been granted, all certified specialists must re-certify every five years. Although taking the exam again is not required, there are reasonable experience, education and reference requirements that are detailed in the standards for each area of law.

Fees (Effective Jan. 1, 2013)

The Legal Specialization Program is nonprofit and completely self-funded by fees collected from applicants, specialists, education providers and accredited organizations. All fees collected directly support the work of the program.  There is also a charge for taking the examination, and an extra charge for those who wish to type their answers using a computer.

Annual fee $360
Recertification fee $350 (submitted with re-certification application every five years, but no additional examination is necessary)