Family Law

Becoming a certified specialist

Thank you to all those who took the Legal Specialist Examination on Oct. 27, 2015! Please note the following:

  • Results will be sent via U.S. mail on March 15, 2016 to the address listed on your My State Bar Profile.
  • Results will not be posted electronically.
  • To ensure that you receive your results and any interim notices, be sure to keep your mailing address and private e-mail address updated on your My State Bar Profile.

Step 1: Register for the examination

Registration has closed for the Oct. 27, 2015 Legal Specialist Examination.

If you have not registered, mark your calendar for the next examination on Oct. 24, 2017. You will be eligible to register if you have been practicing in the specialty area since Jan. 2016 and you can complete and file your application documenting the remaining education, experience and references by Jan. 2021. In the meantime, you can work toward the task, experience and education requirements noted below.

If you have already registered for the Oct. 2015 Legal Specialist Examination, scroll down to the Preparing for the examination section to access a free preparation packet and purchase optional preparation materials and visit the examination information page for key information, such as when to arrive and what to bring to the exam. In addition, you should have already received an information packet containing relevant examination bulletins and your admittance ticket. ExamSoft registration information was also sent via e-mail under separate cover.

Step 2: Gain experience, complete education and secure references

The Legal Specialist Examination was held on Oct. 27, 2015. In the meantime, previewing the general program rules, the standards applicable to this specialty and the post-examination application will help you to begin documenting the education and experience needed to complete your candidate packet. These requirements may be completed prior to the examination or up to three years after (through Jan. 2019).

Although you will not file the post-examination application documenting your experience, education and references until after you pass the examination, many attorneys find it helpful to track their progress toward completion of the requirements prior to the examination. When you file your post-examination application, you will be able to include experience from the prior five years and education from the prior three years. 

Once a candidate has passed the examination, filed an application and been in practice for five years, the candidate's application will be ready for review by the advisory commission in the specialty and the California Board of Legal Specialization.

Preparing for the examination

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

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

Prep courses

The following provider has preparation materials available for the 2015 Family Law Legal Specialist Examination:

CDs and DVDs are now available for sale for the 2015 Advanced Family Law Course in preparation for the Family Law Legal Specialist Examination hosted by CFLR held earlier this summer.

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.

Testing accommodations

If you have a physical, learning or mental disability, you may file a petition for testing accommodations when taking the Legal Specialist Examination. The deadline for filing petitions is Oct. 1, 2015 for this Legal Specialist Examination. 

You may apply for testing accommodations prior to registering for the examination, but your seat at the examination will not be secured until you register for the examination above. Your application will be taken on a space available basis at that time, and the fee in effect at the time that the examination registration is received will apply. 

Examination results

2015 Legal Specialist Examination results will be sent via U.S. Mail on March 15, 2016 to the address listed in the private address field of My State Bar Profile. Be sure to update this address by March 1, 2016 to ensure that your results are sent to your desired address.

2013 Legal Specialist Examination results were mailed via U.S. mail on March 15, 2014 to the address found on your State Bar profile.

If you have passed the Legal Specialist Examination, you are eligible to proceed to the next step in the certification process and to file your post-examination application immediately if you wish. You must file this application, or a request for an extension, by April 25, 2015. Requests for an extension should be sent to Requests for dates later than Jan. 2017 cannot be entertained.

post examination application form is available. You can also visit the forms page on the legal specialization page.

What happens after the examination and what can you complete before the examination?

After passing the examination, you will be asked to demonstrate your experience and education and references in a post-examination application.

While you will file the post-examination application after the examination, you can fulfill the requirements prior to the examination or take up to three years after the examination. If you have not filed your post-examination application within 18 months after the administration of the examination, you will be asked to provide the State Bar with an estimate of the time that you plan to file your post-examination application. You must complete all steps within three years (Jan. 2019 for the 2015 examination).

View a post-examination application from one of the past examinations. You can also view the rules and standards below for full details about the requirements. You are welcome to call or e-mail the Department of Legal Specialization if you have any questions. If the California Board of Legal Specialization or its advisory commissions have any questions, you will be contacted to address any questions or supplement your application.

The general Rules Governing the State Bar of California Program for Certifying Legal Specialists govern the program requirements, but must be read in conjunction with The Standards for Certification in Family Law (revised 5/16/08).

When taking educational courses, be sure to save your certificates of participation, as you will need them when filing your post-examination application. Pre-approved legal specialist education information can be found on the Certification Provider Search page. You may also petition for credit for MCLE-approved courses and MCLE approved self-study in your area of law. Note that non-participatory classes and self-study classes can only fulfill half of your educational requirement, which is also true for your MCLE requirement.

Once your post-examination application is complete

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

Here are a few tips to remember:
  • 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. To read more information about current certified specialists due to comply and to access a compliance card, visit our 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.