Recently workers’ compensation attorney Ryan Bliss became a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in workers’ compensation law. Becoming North Carolina Board Certified is quite an achievement. Out of the more than 28,000 attorneys licensed in North Carolina, only 140 are board certified in workers’ compensation law – that’s less than 1%.3 While not all practice areas in North Carolina offer board certification, workers’ comp does.
Not every attorney who has the opportunity to become board certified chooses that path. It’s a tough one to forge. The time commitment alone can deter many capable attorneys.
We sat down with Mr. Bliss to get his thoughts about why he chose to become North Carolina board certified in worker’s compensation law.
What prompted you to become a North Carolina board certified specialist in workers’ compensation law?
For me, it was a no-brainer. The board certification process gives lawyers a unique opportunity to demonstrate specialized knowledge, skill, and proficiency in a designated area of practice. Specialization is a distinguishing accomplishment in the legal profession, and very few lawyers licensed in North Carolina can claim this designation.
I’m proud to say we now have eight attorneys at our firm who are board certified. I chose to apply for board certification because I want my clients to know I strive to be the best lawyer I can be for them. Becoming board certified is one more step toward that effort.
What was involved in becoming board certified in workers’ compensation law?
Candidates for board certification must devote a significant portion of their legal practice to workers’ compensation for at least five years. Additionally, they must meet Continuing Legal Education requirements and be favorably evaluated and recommended for certification by other lawyers and/or judges. There’s also a lengthy written exam, which lasts six hours and covers many aspects of North Carolina’s workers’ compensation law, including nuanced details from decades of court decisions.
What was this experience like for you?
Rigorous. Interesting. Enlightening. Often stressful. I knew that finding time to study while working full time and having a family wasn’t going to be easy, but I looked forward to the challenge.
Before allowing applicants to sit for the exam, the specialization board requires attorneys to demonstrate their experience and skill via a written application. We are asked to list our qualifications and summarize years of active legal practice in just a few pages. Applicants must also provide several personal references from upstanding peers in the legal community.
The exam covers a lot of ground so I began studying in advance. It was a major time commitment, but what I learned has already begun to pay dividends in the cases I am handling. My firm is all about doing what is best for the client, and board specialization certainly runs in that vein.
What did you learn that might potentially enhance and fortify your practice?
In many ways, I believe I’m a better attorney because of this experience. After immersing myself in the intricacies of our workers’ compensation system, I’m now able to be more creative when crafting legal arguments. As a specialist, I can offer my clients a much broader perspective when discussing complex issues that arise in their cases.
I’ve looked forward to this experience for a long time. In my role as a workers’ compensation attorney, I make important decisions every day that directly affect my clients’ livelihoods and families. As a board certified specialist, I know I’m giving them the very best I have to offer.
3Figures provided by the N.C. State Bar as of December 2016.