Becoming a certified specialist

Step 1: Register for the examination. Reduced fee in effect until May 1!

Step 2: Gain experience, complete education and secure references, either before or after the examination.

Register and Prepare for the Legal Specialist Examination


Register for the one-day legal specialist examination taking place on Oct. 24, 2017 in Pasadena and Oakland.

You are eligible to register if you have are a member of the State Bar of California, you have practicing in the specialty area since January 2016 for at least 25 percent of the time, and you can complete and file your application documenting the remaining education, experience and references by January 2021.

Get full details about the examination on our examination information page.

Prepare for the Examination

Once you register for the examination, taking advantage of reduced pricing if you register before May 1, it is time to prepare.

First, be sure to read the examination information page so you will know when to arrive, what to bring, and how the process works.

Second, see a free examination preparation packet, including sample essay questions and key facts about the examination. No multiple-choice questions are released for practice.

Private Examination Preparation courses

Classes will be added as the Department of Legal Specialization is informed.

The Department of Legal Specialization is not affiliated with any commercial preparation class and derives no financial benefit from any educational provider. The department provides this information solely for your convenience.

Examination results

2017 Legal Specialist Examination results will be sent via U.S. mail on March 15, 2018 to the address listed in your My State Bar Profile.

If you passed the 2015 Legal Specialist Examination, you must file your post-examination application by April 27, 2017 or a draft a letter by that date to the California Board of Legal Specialization requesting an extension for good cause shown to .  Extensions cannot be granted beyond January 2019.  The most common reason an extension is requested is because a person has not yet completed the full five years in practice required for a review of the application.

What are the experience, education and reference requirements?

As mentioned above, after passing the examination, you will complete your candidate package for certification by filing a post-examination application documenting your experience, 45 hours of continuing education in the field, and positive peer references.  This experience may have taken place before or after the examination. 

You can fulfill the experience, education and references required in this application before you take the examination or up to three years and three months after the examination (January 2021 for the 2017  examination).

The general Rules Governing the State Bar of California Program for Certifying Legal Specialists  in conjunction with the Standards for Certification in Admiralty and Maritime Law (revised 5/16/08) describe all requirements.  The post-examination application can serve as a guide today to help you gather your materials.

Once a candidate passes the examination and completes and submits a post-examination application, the application review process will begin.

Application Review Process

The Department of Legal Specialization will send out questionnaires to your references. Once the references have been returned, your application will be complete. An advisory committee with expertise in your area of law will review the applications and provide a recommendation to the California Board of Legal Specialization, who will make the final certification decision. The process generally takes about six months from the time you file your post-examination application.

Current certified specialists and recertification

 In order to maintain your certification, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Every three years, legal specialists are required to take 36 hours of legal specialist approved education or equivalent during their MCLE compliance period and to report compliance using a legal specialist education compliance form on the same Feb. 1 deadline by which they must report MCLE Compliance. To read more information about the courses that qualify and visit the forms page.
  • Every five years, legal specialists must recertify their expertise in their field by filing a recertification application, but they do not need to take the examination again.

Contact us

Questions? Contact the Department of Legal Specialization at or at 415-538-2120.