An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Ward and Smith Attorneys Advocate for Establishment of North Carolina Employment Law Specialization

Grant Osborne and Will Oden

Ward and Smith attorneys Grant Osborne and Will Oden, who have more than 50 years of combined experience in the practice of  Employment Law, are petitioning the North Carolina State Bar to establish a Board-Certified Employment Law Specialty for North Carolina attorneys. 

They will attend the Bar's Board of Legal Specialization meeting on Friday, December 9, 2022, to present their proposal, which requires at least 100 North Carolina lawyers to endorse the establishment of the specialty.  Sign the petition here.

Employment Law is a complex and ever-changing area of law in which practicing attorneys must be knowledgeable and up-to-date on the intricacies and interplay of federal and state statutes, regulations, and common law. Grant and Will believe that both consumers of legal services and the legal profession will be well-served by the creation of an Employment Law Specialization.

"Board-certification in the specialty of Employment Law, for those who choose to obtain it, will help to demonstrate and ensure practitioners' expertise in the field,  provide a higher level of service to the public, and create a greater level of confidence in the attorney-client relationship," said Grant.

Will added, "It would also encourage attorneys to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in employment law and to continue to hone their skills in this practice area."

The North Carolina State Bar explains that "[m]any lawyers limit their practices to certain areas of law.   However, a lawyer may not claim that he or she is a 'specialist'" or "specializes … in a field of practice", regardless of how long she or has practiced law in the field, unless the lawyer has been  "certified as a specialist by the North Carolina State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization" or been "certified as a specialist in the field … by … an organization that is accredited by the North Carolina State Bar" or "an organization that is accredited by the American Bar Association under procedures and criteria endorsed by the North Carolina State Bar."

The Bar offers specialty certification in 14 fields of practice, such as family law, criminal law, bankruptcy law, and estate planning.  Although specialization requirements vary from one specialty area to the next, the minimum standards for certification as a specialist include the following:

  • the applicant must be licensed and in good standing to practice law in North Carolina;
  • the applicant must be substantially involved in the practice area, usually for a minimum of five years;
  • the applicant must take a certain number of continuing legal education credits in the specialty area during the three years prior to application;
  • the applicant must make a satisfactory showing of qualification in the specialty through peer review; and
  • the applicant must achieve a satisfactory score on a written examination in the practice area.

The creation of the Employment Law Specialization would make North Carolina the seventh state in the nation to offer this type of specialty through a state-sponsored certification program.  In advance of the Legal Specialization meeting, North Carolina attorneys interested in creating an Employment Law Specialty should fill out a three-question survey, which can be found here:

Subscribe to Ward and Smith