Accreditation Process

How the ABA accreditation process works

The ABA Standing Committee on Specialization administers the accreditation process under a set of rules and procedures which provide the necessary interpretation of the standards and establishes a series of processes used to administer the accreditation mechanism.

The applicant's organizational capabilities, operational methods and certification standards are reviewed by specially appointed evaluation panels. These panels are comprised of individuals with special knowledge of the substantive specialty and the certification process. The panel reports its findings to the Standing Committee which prepares a recommendation on accreditation to the ABA House of Delegates. The actual granting of accreditation is voted on by the House at its Annual and Midyear meetings. The accreditation period is five years, after which a program must be re- accredited if it is to retain its standing with the ABA.

Applying for accreditation

Any organization that certifies lawyers as specialists is eligible to apply to the ABA for accreditation, regardless of whether it is sponsored by a private organization, a governmental entity or a bar association. Application packets are available that contain copies of the ABA standards, governing rules, fee schedule, plus the forms and instructions needed to complete the application.

Because of the varying circumstances surrounding each application and the evaluation process, the ABA cannot be bound to any specific schedule in processing, evaluating, or rendering a decision on an application for accreditation.

Prior to making a formal application for accreditation, an Applicant is required to file with the Standing Committee a Notice of Intent to Apply Form and, in addition, pay a non-refundable pre-application fee in the amount specified on the form.

Along with the Notice of Intent to Apply Form and the fee, the Applicant must also submit the name of the specialty for each program under consideration, along with a statement which defines the specialty in detail in terms of the specific areas of law and practice it covers.

The Notice of Intent to Apply Form, with the specialty name(s) and definition(s), shall be reviewed by the entire Standing Committee as specified in Standard 4.05(C).

Subject to the Notice of Intent to File requirement described above, an Applicant may file a formal application for accreditation with the Standing Committee at any time on forms provided by the Association, together with payment of a basic application fee, plus a certificate fee for each specialty certificate issued by the Applicant.

Where can I get more information?

To receive an accreditation packet -- or just more information about ABA accreditation of specialty certifiers, contact:

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