Resources for Programs

Accreditation of Lawyer Certification Programs

  Certification as a specialist means that a certifying body has recognized that a lawyer has an enhanced degree of skill and experience in a specified area of practice. Certifying bodies establish standards of competence, experience and knowledge to ensure that the lawyer's recognition as a specialist is meaningful and reliable. These entities may be programs created by a state supreme court, state bar association, or private organizations established to advance specialty certification in a specific practice area.

  What does ABA accreditation mean?
It simply means that a lawyer specialty certification program offered by an entity has been found to conform to ABA standards. Any further effect which accreditation may have on either a program or the lawyers certified thereunder depends upon how states regulate it.

   Find a State Regulation Scheme

A lawyer's ability to publicize his or her certification is subject to state disciplinary rules. In many states, ABA accreditation of a lawyer specialty certification programs is accepted by state disciplinary authorities.

Lawyers who are certified as specialists by a program accredited by the ABA should confirm with their state disciplinary authority that their jurisdiction recognizes ABA accreditation for approval purposes.

Finally, lawyers may not represent themselves as "ABA-certified specialists," because the ABA's accreditation applies only to the program of the accredited entity rather than to the individual lawyer. They may, subject to their state's rules, represent themselves as being certified by an ABA-accredited specialty certification program.

American Bar Association
Standing Committee on Specialization
321 North Clark Street - 17FL
Chicago, IL 60654-7598
Tel: (312) 988-5300
Fax: (312) 988-5491

If you have any comments or suggestions, please contact Martin Whittaker at or Annie Kuhlman at   


Updated 04/05/2012