Legal specialization offers unique perks
By Michael Berg
As a State Bar-certified specialist since 1996, I’d like to
encourage you to consider taking the legal specialist examination on Oct. 27. If you
miss this one, the next exam won’t be offered until 2017.
If you're thinking, “There is no way I would sit through
another exam like the California Bar Exam,” fear not. Unlike the bar exam, the
exam lasts only one day and does not require countless hours of preparation. In
fact, 72 percent passed the last legal specialist exam in 2013.
Any attorney committed to a practice area should be up for
the challenge of taking the exam. No special skill set or knowledge is required
other than the knowledge one develops when practicing. The exam is not easy,
but it is certainly not impossible to pass. The questions are developed by
attorneys who practice law in that particular field based on real-life
situations. So if you practice regularly in your field, you definitely have the
skills and knowledge to pass.
The State Bar also provides previous exam questions online
as a study tool, and private companies provide preparation classes.
Certification brings referrals
Over the last 20 years, numerous clients have told me they
hired me based on my specialist certification. These clients told me that if
they were seeking medical care, they would want an individual who was a
specialist in that practice area.
The same thought process goes into hiring an attorney.
Standing out from my colleagues is one of the many reasons to become a
certified specialist. There are thousands of criminal defense attorneys, but
less than 400 criminal law specialists in California. Certification provides a
way to grow my practice while instilling confidence and a unique comfort level
for my clients. If you were a client choosing between two attorneys to
represent you – one who was certified and one who was not – which would you
Consumers can also find me by my specialty practice area on
the State Bar website using the attorney
search function. I also have my certification on my State Bar profile,
bringing potential clients to my website at SanDiego.CriminalLaw.com.
When I need to refer an individual to another attorney
either outside my practice area or outside San Diego, I feel confident
referring people to certified specialists in any of the 22 practice areas
around California. And I am keenly aware that other attorneys refer clients to
me based on my certification.
Certification shows I care about my clients
As a criminal defense attorney, I regularly meet people when
they are scared, nervous and afraid. Not only are they unfamiliar with the
criminal justice system, but they are now forced to make one of the most important
decisions in their lives: hiring an attorney to defend them. I want my clients
to be confident that I have the ability to do whatever it takes to defend them.
My certification as a specialist immediately helps build that confidence.
Clients feel less pressure from the system knowing that
their attorney has the capability that comes with being a certified specialist.
Even if an individual hasn’t worked with an attorney before and may not know exactly
what certification is, once explained to them it always eases any nerves. When
I meet new prosecutors and lawyers, my certification gives me an immediate level
of respect. Certification lets people know that I have a great deal of
experience and respect from my peers, and it sets the right tone for discussing
Certification helps build camaraderie
As I become
more involved in the legal specialization program as a volunteer member of the
California Board of Legal Specialization, I get to see firsthand the care the group
takes to set strong certification standards, help attorneys meet those
standards and do the best they can for their clients. The program helps create
an active community that is continuously striving for excellence, whether it is
by meeting rigorous standards or keeping a commitment to continuing education. Although
we are advocates and work hard for our clients, it is also important that we
get along to maintain civility.
Becoming a certified specialist was a defining moment in my
career. It set me apart from my peers and is definitely one of my proudest
accomplishments. Do it for your clients. Do it for your profession. But most
importantly, do it for yourself.
Michael Berg is a criminal defense attorney in solo
practice in San Diego. He is also a member of the California Board of Legal
for the examination by Oct. 1 to take it on Oct. 27. You are
eligible if you have been practicing in the specialty since January 2014. The
next examination takes place in 2017. Learn more at www.californiaspecialist.org.