Rule 1. Alabama State Bar Board of Legal Specialization Established; Purpose of the Board
There is hereby established the Alabama State Bar Board of Legal Specialization (referred to in these rules as “the board”). The purpose of the board is to regulate the certification of lawyers as specialists by certifying agencies, so as to enhance public access to appropriate legal services.
Rule 2. Membership of the Board; Chairperson; Terms; Expense Reimbursement; Meetings
2.01. The board shall consist of 12 members appointed by the Board of Bar Commissioners. All members shall be lawyers regularly licensed in this state and they shall be representative of the various fields of legal practice, including general practice.
2.02. One member shall be designated by the Board of Bar commissioners as chairperson of the board for such a term as the Board of Bar Commissioners shall determine.
2.03. Of the members first appointed, four shall be appointed for a term of one year, four for a term of two years, and four for a term of three years. Thereafter, appointments shall be for three-year terms. No member may serve more than two consecutive three-year terms.
2.04. Members shall not be compensated but shall be reimbursed for their actual direct expenses incurred in travel.
2.05. Meetings of the board shall be held at regular intervals at such times and places and on such notice as the board may prescribe.
Rule 3. Powers and Duties of the Board
The board itself will not certify lawyers as specialists, but, subject to the supervision of the Board of Bar Commissioners, the board has the following powers and duties regarding certification of specialists:
3.01. To designate areas of legal practice subject to specialty designation. The board may make a specialty designation either on its own motion or on a petition of an interested party, which shall be based on criteria established by the board.
3.02. To approve and regulate agencies qualified to certify lawyers as specialists in a particular field of law as certifying agencies, and to adopt standards that certifying agencies must meet.
3.03. To adopt standards for certifying lawyers as specialists.
3.04. To review and evaluate the programs of certifying agencies to assure compliance with this specialization program.
3.05. To deny, suspend, or revoke the approval of a certifying agency that has failed to comply with these rules or the regulations and standards of the board.
3.06. To keep appropriate records of lawyers certified as specialists by certifying agencies approved under these rules and to report to the Disciplinary Commission of the Alabama State Bar any attorney who may violate these rules or the board’s regulations or standards.
3.07. To cooperate with other organizations, boards and agencies engaged in the field of lawyer specialization.
3.08. To enlist the assistance of committees to advise the board.
3.09. To adopt such regulations, policies, and standards as are reasonably necessary to implement these rules and that are not inconsistent with these rules.
Rule 4. Administrator
4.01. The Board of Bar Commissioners may provide for an administrator of the bar’s lawyer specialization program and for such other staff as may be necessary. 4.02. The administrator shall be responsible for the proper administration of the specialization program and shall perform the duties assigned by the board.
Rule 5. Standards for Approval of Certifying Agencies
5.01. To qualify as a certifying agency, an agency must include in its membership lawyers who, in the judgment of the board, are experts in the area of law covered by the specialty as to which the agency purports to certify, and each of those lawyers must have extensive practice or involvement in the specialty area. 5.02. Standards for agency certification shall include, as a minimum, the regulations and standards adopted by the board from time to time under these rules. Such regulations and standards shall not unlawfully discriminate against any lawyer properly qualified for certification as a specialist, but shall provide a reasonable basis for determining that a lawyer possesses special competence in a particular field of law, as demonstrated by the following means:
5.021. Substantial involvement in the specialty area during the three- (3-) year period immediately preceding application to the certifying agency. “Substantial involvement” is measured by the amount of time spent practicing in the specialty area: A minimum of 25 percent of the lawyer’s practice must be spent in the specialty area.
5.022. Peer recommendations from lawyers who are familiar with the competence of the lawyer seeking a specialty designation; none of the peer recommendations shall be from lawyers related to, or engaged in legal practice with, the lawyer.
5.023. Objective evaluation of the lawyer’s knowledge of the substantive and procedural law in the specialty area, to be determined by written and/or oral examination. The examination shall include a part devoted to professional responsibility and ethics as it relates to the particular specialty.
5.03. The certifying agency shall be responsible for making appropriate investigations of peer recommendations and for obtaining any other information that may be required to assure that the lawyer is in compliance with all certification requirements. The files and records of certifying agencies concerning lawyers certified or seeking certification are deemed to be confidential and shall not be disclosed except as directed by the board.
5.04. The certifying agency shall maintain a register of all lawyers it certifies as specialists under these rules and shall report to the board the names of lawyers so certified.
5.05. Each certifying agency shall annually submit to the board a report of its activities during the previous year, including an explanation of the measures employed to ensure compliance with these rules.
5.06. The certifying agency shall cooperate at all times with the board and shall perform such duties as may be required by the board for proper administration of the certification program.
5.07. No section, committee, task force, or other entity created by the Alabama State Bar shall qualify, or be approved, under these rules as a certifying agency.
5.08. Any certifying agency having received prior accreditation from the American Bar Association as a private certifying agency shall be exempt from making application with the board and will be deemed an approved certifying agency in this state upon payment of all fees to the board. Provided, however, any agency whose specialty would involve areas of law particular to the State of Alabama shall be required to submit to the board for its consideration a copy of each written or oral examination question and each model answer relative to that portion of the examination exclusive to Alabama.
Rule 6. Minimum Standards for Certification of Specialists
6.01. In order to be certified as a specialist, a lawyer must be duly licensed in this state, engaged in active practice, and must be in good standing, throughout the period for which the specialty designation is granted. In addition, a lawyer must comply with the other requirements of Rule 6.
6.02. The lawyer must be certified by an agency approved by the board.
6.03. Every year the lawyer must complete a minimum of six (6) hours of continuing legal education course work in the area of the lawyer’s specialty. These hours shall constitute a part of the annual requirement under the Alabama State Bar Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Rules and Regulations.
Rule 7. Privilege Conferred and Limitations Imposed
7.01. A lawyer certified as a specialist under these rules may communicate the fact that he or she is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law and the name of the particular certifying agency by which the lawyer is certified. A lawyer shall not represent, either expressly or impliedly, that he or she has specialty status recognized by any entity other than the certifying agency.
7.02. Nothing in these rules shall in any way limit the right of a certified specialist to practice in all fields of law. Any lawyer shall have the right to practice in all fields of law, even though certified as a specialist in a particular field of law.
7.03. No lawyer shall be required to be certified as a specialist in a particular field of law in order to practice in that field of law. A lawyer shall have the right to practice in any field of law, even though not certified as a specialist in that field. Participation in a specialty recognition program under these rules shall be voluntary.
7.04. A lawyer may be certified as a specialist in more than one field of law. The maximum number of fields in which a lawyer may be certified as a specialist shall be determined only by the practical limits imposed by the requirement of substantial involvement and such other standards as may be established by the board pursuant to Rule 6.
Rule 8. Minimum Standards for Continued Recognition of Specialists
8.01. The period of recognition as a specialist shall be five (5) years. During this period the board or appropriate certifying agency may require evidence from the specialist of continued qualification for certification as a specialist. 8.02. Application for and approval of continued certification as a specialist shall be required prior to the end of each five(5) year period. To qualify for continued certification as a specialist, a lawyer applicant must pay the required fees and meet the requirements for certification renewal established by the board.
Rule 9. Fees
9.01. To defray expenses of the Alabama State Bar Board of Legal Specialization in administering these rules, the board may establish and collect reasonable fees from the certifying agencies and from the lawyers certified as specialists. It is anticipated that this board will be self-sustaining. These rules are effective January 1, 1994.
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