california Board of Legal Specialization

Appointment Information

The California Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS) administers the State Bar of California Program for Certifying Legal Specialists with the assistance of specialty advisory commissions. The program was created by the California Supreme Court to provide consumer protection and encourage attorney competence.


  • recommends rules and provides policies and guidelines for certification of specialists;
  • develops testing and legal education criteria for specialists and outreach efforts to increase awareness of the program;
  • advises the Board of Trustees on establishment of specialty fields and appointment of advisory commissions;
  • meets approximately six times per year in State Bar offices, and participation on at least one subcommittee via teleconference is mandatory;

Membership:  CBLS consists of 15 members: 12 lawyers, at least 10 of whom must be certified specialists, and three non-lawyer public members. Officers include the chair, vice chair and an immediate past chair each serving one-year terms. Members serve four-year terms.

Currently, lawyers can earn certificates of specialization in the following areas of law: Admiralty and Maritime Law, Appellate Law, Bankruptcy Law, Criminal Law, Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law, Family Law, Franchise and Distribution Law, Immigration and Nationality Law, Legal Malpractice Law, Taxation Law, and Workers' Compensation Law.

CBLS tries to achieve a balanced representation of geographic and certified specialty areas, and also looks for experience in areas such as education, examination development, public relations. Non-lawyer applicants are selected when their experience will contribute to the program's goals, particularly in the areas of outreach  strategic planning, or the development of new specialties.

  • Expected 2017-18 vacancies:  2-4 (lawyer and non-lawyer positions)
  • Meetings per year: 6
  • 2016-17 Chair: Jeffrey B. Hayden, Redwood City 
  • Staff contact: Natalie Leonard 415-538-2118

Deadline for 2017 applications: February 8, 2017

2017-18 terms begin: Conclusion of 2017 State Bar Annual Meeting (September 22, 2017)