Attorneys who specialize in one of 27 areas of practice take an exam and “will make more money” if they pass.
There are lawyers, and then there are board-certified lawyers.
The difference and why the latter may have an advantage over the former in certain circumstances was the topic at the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association’s November CLE meeting.
Holland & Knight Orlando litigation attorney Jamie Moses, who is board-certified in appellate law by The Florida Bar and a member of its Appellate Board Certification Committee, was the presenter.
Established in 1982 by the state Supreme Court, board-certification recognizes special knowledge, skills and proficiency in various areas of law and professionalism and ethics in practice.
In Florida, there are 27 areas of specialized practice in which an attorney may qualify for board certification.
While each specialty has specific requirements, the general minimum requirements for certification are:
• Having practiced law for at least five years.
• Demonstration of substantial involvement in the specialty, such as courtroom experience.
• Satisfactory peer review of competence in the specialty, character, ethics and professionalism.
• Meeting the continuing legal education requirement for the specialty.
• Receiving a passing grade on the written examination for the specialty or meeting strict criteria to be exempt from the exam.
“Don’t go into it lightly. You have to earn it. It’s hard to do, but it’s worth it,” said Moses.
The written examination for many applicants is the most challenging part of the process. Moses said that for her, the certification test was more difficult than the two-day examination for licensure she took after graduating from law school.
“In law school, I had been studying for three years and you learn very broadly. Specialization is targeted,” she said.
When she asked the attorneys at the meeting to raise their hand if they are board-certified, only five of the nearly 100 attendees responded. That wasn’t a surprise, because about 5 percent of the 106,740 members of The Florida Bar have earned certification, Moses said.
The level of study involved to pass the examination helps a lawyer’s clients and board-certification can improve a lawyer’s career.
“It will make you a better lawyer,” said Moses. “And it will help you get clients. When you’re considered a specialist, you can justify a higher rate and make more money for your firm.”
The association is planning its participation in events into 2019, said President Jamie Karpman.
She said volunteers are needed for the chili cook-off committee. The association will enter the Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section culinary competition for charity scheduled in February at Riverside Arts Market.
The second annual JWLA Golf Academy is conducting classes at Blue Sky Golf Club in preparation to field a team in the Jacksonville Bar Association members tournament.
The inaugural group in the JWLA Shooting Clinic, taught by Jacksonville University shooting coach David Dobson, is learning the fine points of clay target sports in preparation for the JBA tournament in February.
“The class is full, but if there’s enough interest, we will form another class,” Karpman said.