Litigating and negotiating asbestos-related civil lawsuits like malignant mesothelioma cases is a specialized branch of America’s already complicated justice system. Asbestos litigation is the oldest civil tort in the United States’ legal history. Numerous asbestos rules and regulations overlap at the federal and state level, which adds to the complex volumes of individual case law precedents. This is why all attorneys practicing mesothelioma law should be properly accredited.
Law Accreditation Explained
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), accreditation means that certified lawyers possess an enhanced expertise and skill level beyond what the average law practitioner has. That includes demonstrating substantial involvement in their specialized field that’s recognized by a certifying organization and supported by peer references, written and oral examinations and a proven track record with years of practical experience. Accredited lawyers are allowed to officially advertise this recognition, which enhances their legal credibility.
For mesothelioma attorneys, accreditation should be mandatory. Mesothelioma cases have more challenging legal procedures than most other types of personal injury litigation. There are specific forms of evidence required to successfully organize a mesothelioma case and see it through to a successful settlement for the plaintiff.
Law firms specializing in mesothelioma cases have attorneys on staff that only deal with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related law. Most of these lawyers proudly carry official accreditation in mesothelioma law.
How Lawyers are Accredited
Achieving accreditation isn’t a simple process for attorneys. Before applying for accreditation, lawyers must already have significant experience in a particular field. There aren’t a set number of cases required for a lawyer to have litigated in the field they specialize in.
The certifying board of the American Bar Association has a minimum standard of 3 years in practicing a specific legal area before they’ll consider an application. During that time, the applicant must show they’ve spent a significant portion of their time dedicated to the field.
For a mesothelioma attorney, it’s likely all of their recent workloads have been asbestos-related cases. Usually, the lawyer seeking accreditation has many more years of experience in general civil law practice before specializing in asbestos lawsuits and claims negotiation.
This is what the ABA’s basic standards are for a lawyer to be accredited:
- Minimum of 3 years dedicated to the accredited field
- Being admitted into legal practice through an accredited law school
- Passing the state or federal bar examination and allowed to practice law in their jurisdiction
- Be in good standing with their governing bar association
- Having evidence they’ve been substantively involved in the specialty area
- Produce supporting references from at least five peers and judges
- Pass a board-certified oral and written exam specific to the substantive and procedural law in their field
- Demonstrate a certain amount of continuing legal education in their field prior to applying for accreditation
There are two levels of accreditation:
- Board Certification: One accreditation form is being board-certified. That can be from the American Bar Association that governs 49 states and territories. Or, it can be from the California Bar Association (CBA) which governs every attorney in California.
- Law School Accreditation: The other form of accreditation is from a law school which itself has been accredited by one of the boards.
Law schools undergo a different process for their certification and being allowed to accredit individual attorneys who have applied to the school. The American Bar Association has an extremely high standard for certifying that a law school is allowed to individually accredit their attorneys.
This is what the ABA requires for an organization to operate a specialty certification program:
- Applicants must be dedicated to identifying lawyers already having enhanced skills and expertise
- Organizations must have the financial resources to operate a certification system
- They must have key staff members with proper educational and professional background
- Schools must have a body of decision-makers who have substantial involvement in the specialty field being accredited
- Law schools must have a reputation for non-discrimination for all applicants regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age
Why Accreditation and Certification is Important
Formal recognition for lawyers is a fairly recent process. Accreditation programs were developed to enhance the legal community’s credibility. This stemmed from a massive growth in the legal communities in the later part of the twentieth century and the mass-advertising campaigns going along with it. Law firms and individual lawyers were unrestricted from publicly professing their expertise in a certain law field without having some form of external approval. Official accreditation helps to prevent misleading the public.
Being board or law school certified adds to an attorney’s professional status. It accredits that the lawyer has the specialty skills to excel in their field. For a personal injury lawyer who specializes in mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases, it reassures clients that they have the highest degree of representation. Accreditation is a hallmark of a truly professional litigator.
Accreditation is also important within the legal community. Lawyers for defendants like wealthy asbestos companies take notice when up against a plaintiff’s attorney who carries accreditation in their specialized practice. This also helps an overcrowded civil court system by reducing the number of asbestos lawsuits going to trial. Accredited attorneys have shown they’re dedicated to their craft and have a proven record of being successful.
Commitment to Specialized Litigation
Attorneys who receive accreditation from a bar association or law school are expected to continue in their specialized field and carry on learning. Most accreditations are for a fixed period such as five years. The attorney must apply to be re-certified by showing they’ve dedicated the substantive time in this period to their specialty. Renewing applicants also must demonstrate they have continued their specialty education, published articles on their field or professed at an accredited facility.
Legal Accreditation Rates
Achieving accreditation isn’t common. There are approximately 1.325 million licensed lawyers in America. Attorneys and their law firms serve clients in dense and sparsely populated areas. In North Dakota, there’s a ratio of 22 lawyers per 10,000 people. California has 43 attorneys per 10,000 while New York has 89 lawyers for every 10,000 citizens. And the District of Columbia has 784 licensed lawyers for the 10,000 population ratio.
Very few of these licensed attorneys hold accreditations in their field. Accreditation is even rarer for mesothelioma lawyers. Being officially accredited is something to be proud of. That’s for both the lawyer and the law firm employing them.
Retaining an Accredited Mesothelioma Lawyer
It’s important to know that law firms, as a corporate entity, don’t receive special recognition or specific accreditation. That distinction goes to the attorneys who’ve proven themselves to be competent, knowledgeable and display enhanced levels of skill and expertise in their field. Mesothelioma litigation is a specialized area of personal injury law. Clients who retain accredited mesothelioma lawyers are guaranteed to have the best possible representation.
For more information on seeking justice for your mesothelioma diagnosis, contact our Justice Support Team today.