The State Bar certifies attorneys as specialists who have gone beyond the standard licensing requirements.
California Rule of Court 9.35 served as the basis for the creation of the State Bar Legal Specialization program. The program was intended to provide a method for attorneys to earn the designation of certified specialist in particular areas of law, increasing public protection and encouraging attorney competence.
The program was the first of its kind in the United States, and it has served as a model for other state programs for certifying legal specialists around the nation.
Admissions Information Management System (AIMS)
The Legal Specialization program is now administered through the Admissions Information Management System (AIMS) community.
Through AIMS, licensees can register for the Legal Specialist Examination, apply for initial certification or recertification, report Legal Specialist Continuing Legal Education (LSCLE) Compliance, or submit other legal specialization requests. Current certified specialists can find initial certification dates, current certification terms, and LSCLE compliance dates all in AIMS.
All California licensees have a current AIMS account. Note that a new account should not be registered or created. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance logging into AIMS, have issues accessing your account, or to verify your username.
Note that (1) the AIMS community and your My State Bar Profile utilize separate login credentials; and (2) any updates to your contact information in the AIMS community do not affect your information in your My State Bar Profile, or vice-versa.
The general requirements to become a certified specialist include:
- passage of a written examination in the legal specialty area
- practiced law continuously for at least five years, spending at least 25 percent of the time given to occupational endeavors practicing in the specialty area
- completion of continuing education in the specialty area greater than that required of general licensees of the State Bar
- demonstration of a broad-based and comprehensive experience in the specialty area based on completion of a variety of matters in the specialty area
- favorable evaluations by other attorneys and judges familiar with the attorney’s work in the specialty area of law
The State Bar of California must approve each attorney’s application. Organizations whose certification program is State Bar-accredited can also certify attorneys, but their certification requirements must equal or exceed those of the State Bar of California’s program.
Once certified, specialists must maintain their certification by:
- paying the Legal Specialization Program Annual Fee each year;
- reporting compliance of the education requirement by completing 36 hours of LSCLE every three years, due at the same time as their MCLE reporting date; and
- reporting compliance of the task & experience and reference requirements by recertifying in five years.