The American Bar Association Tuesday posted its 27-page Concise Guide to Lawyer Specialty Certification online.
Formal “board certifications” for lawyers is a relative new phenomena, arising out of the perceived need in decades past for a regulation of publicly-made claims by some attorneys of special competences and a “wake of liberalized advertising rules.”
“There has long been widespread de facto specialization in the legal profession,” the ABA’s Guide comments; “still, most state disciplinary rules prohibited lawyers from holding themselves out as specialists.”
The Guide continues to say that there were two landmarks leading to today’s environment. The first of these was Bates & O’Steen v. State Bar of Arizona in 1977, when the Supreme Court ruled that states could only regulate advertising by attorneys only to the extent necessary to prevent “false, deceptive, or misleading communication.” Second was the decision, 17 years ago, in Peel v. Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Comm’n. of Illinois, where the Supreme Court held that states could not constitutionally impose blanket prohibitions on truthful communication by lawyers to the effect that he/she was certified by a bona fide organization as a specialist in one or another field. That decision forced many states to reevaluate their positions.
Today, there are some 15 states – including Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee – that have state-sponsored board certification. Since 1993, ABA has accredited 14 certification programs conducted by seven different private organizations. (See Here)