Evidence of Excellence:
Florida Bar Board Certification Program
In recognition of the Florida attorneys and judges who have maintained their board certification since 1983.
The Florida Supreme Court established Florida's board certification program in 1982 so that consumers can identify qualified legal specialists who are dedicated to professional excellence. In 1982, 33,800 attorneys were members of the Florida Bar. Today, Florida has more than 95,000 attorneys practicing in numerous fields of law.
The Florida Bar offers 24 specialty areas for certification, including three that are available only in Florida: intellectual property, adoption and education law.
The voluntary board certification program has grown steadily since its inception. Thirty percent of lawyers who earned certification in 2012 are Young Lawyers Division members.
A directory of all Florida Bar board certified lawyers is available at FloridaBar.org/certification.
Certification gives prospective clients objective information on a lawyer's special knowledge, skills and proficiency in specific fields of law.
Florida Bar President-Elect Eugene Pettis, a board certified education lawyer, believes that board certification is becoming a standard of preference for an increasing number of clients. "In an ever-crowded field, the achievement of board certification — the Bar's highest evaluation of a lawyer's competence and experience in a particular area of practice — is the only way of distinguishing yourself as an expert or a specialist."
The words Board Certified, Specialist, Expert and the letters B.C.S. for Board Certified Specialist mean that a Florida lawyer has special knowledge, skills and proficiency in a specific field of law. In Florida, only board certified lawyers may identify themselves by using these terms or the board certification logo.
To be Florida Bar board certified, an attorney must earn this career achievement through testing, area-specific continuing legal education and confidential peer review.
Civil Trail and Tax Law were the first certifications offered. Now, the Florida Bar offers 24 specialty areas for certification, including three that are available only in Florida: intellectual property, adoption and education law.
Six percent of eligible Florida Bar members — about 4,600 lawyers — are board certified.
An Important Credential of Professional Expertise
Terrence Russell, Managing Shareholder, Fowler White Boggs, Fort Lauderdale (right), was among the first class of attorneys who took and passed the board certification exam. He's kept his Civil Law certification current and added Business Litigation to his credentials when that practice area was added.
"The 30-year anniversary snuck up on me; I didn't realize it until recently," Russell says. "When the opportunity arose in 1983 to take the first test, I had been in practice 14 years as a civil litigator and was spending lots of time in court. Board certification was a natural progression for my professional career. For the first exam, there was no way to study; we had to rely on our practice experience."
Board certification provides a credential that prospective clients can evaluate and use to make decisions to hire an attorney. "I get a lot of business from law firms in the Northeast," Russell says, "so the board certification is an important criteria of professional accomplishment and expertise."
Past president of the Florida Bar, Russell received the Florida Bar Foundation's Medal of Honor in 2008 for his work securing passage of legislation providing for state funding for civil legal assistance for the poor.