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What is a Certified Specialist?

There are many Personal Injury Lawyers.  Some are called “Certified Specialists in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death”. 

What does that mean exactly?  Is there a difference?  In truth, there is a HUGE difference.

According to the State Bar of Arizona, A Certified Specialist is an attorney who has proven experience in a particular area of law.

An Arizona attorney must meet the following minimum standards for Specialization in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death:

  1. Admission to the practice of law for at least five (5) years
  2. Admission to the State Bar of Arizona for at least two (2) years immediately preceding submission of the application
  3. Devotion of at least 50% of a full-time practice to the specialty area
  4. Substantial involvement in the certification area for four to six of the years immediately preceding submission of the application
  5. A full peer review is conducted and a written examination must be passed.

In Arizona, less than 2% of lawyers are Certified Specialists.

To be a Certified Specialist in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death, a Phoenix injury lawyer must demonstrate a superior knowledge and ability in the area of law.

What is necessary to prove a superior knowledge and ability in the area of Personal Injury and Wrongful Death law? There are multiple factors:

1. Trial experience. A lawyer’s trial experience and results must prove that the lawyer is experienced and capable of handling personal injury and wrongful death cases through a jury trial. As all cases have the potential to go to trial, it is essential that the attorney knows the rules and the procedures for this complicated process. Many attorneys don’t try cases. These attorneys will never obtain the distinction as a Certified Specialist.

2. Results. The case and/or trial results are important. Essentially, does the attorney win? The trial results are one thing that is taken into consideration in considering a lawyer for specialization.

3. Ethical standards and record. Contrary to what many people think, and notwithstanding the lawyer jokes that abound, lawyers in Arizona are held under a very close scrutiny by the State Bar of Arizona. Lawyers have a comprehensive code of ethical standards, the breach of which can subject the attorney to professional discipline or even disbarment. An attorney’s ethics record is important in the certification process.

4. Peer review. In the qualification process, the review panel will obtain recommendations and opinions from many who have encountered the lawyer in a professional setting: Judges, opposing attorneys and other attorneys. These people will all be asked to give their confidential opinion of the lawyer, including knowledge of the law, legal abilities, ethical standards and professional communications.

5. Passing a 4-hour exam in the specialty area. Once an application and background investigation is complete, the lawyer must pass a four (4) hour written exam in the specialty area of law.

The process of becoming a Certified Specialist in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death in Phoenix, Arizona is a long process and an achievement that is not only a sound endorsement of the lawyer’s abilities but also, a very high honor for the personal injury lawyer who achieves it.

Anyone with a law license can advertise that they practice personal injury law, but you really never know what you are going to get.

On the other hand, if your lawyer is a Certified Specialist in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death, the highest endorsement provided by the State Bar of Arizona, you can be assured that you are in good hands, whatever the nature of your Personal Injury/Wrongful Death case.