There are about 28,000 North Carolina licensed attorneys1.
Less than 4% are North Carolina Board Certified Specialists, and eight of them practice right here at our firm1.
While N.C. board certification isn't offered for personal injury/car accident practice areas (or many other types of practice areas), it is offered for workers' comp and social security disability law.
N.C. State Bar Board Certification Explained
So what exactly does it mean to be board certified? It means you have an attorney who shows special knowledge and proficiency in their specific area of law, having undergone additional training (and other intense analysis) to become certified as a specialist.
It's a little like commercial pilot training. Certain airports with particularly dangerous runways or topography require specialized pilot training and certification to fly into. Think Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Martin in the Caribbean.
Would you want a pilot without certified experience and specialized skill landing this plane?
Now unlike pilot certifications, a lack of specialization does not prevent an attorney from practicing, but it does indicate a certain level of expertise and accomplishment.
The North Carolina State Bar puts it another way: "Certification of lawyers as specialists by an objective entity and according to objective criteria fulfills the mission of the State Bar to protect the public by providing relevant, truthful, and reliable information to consumers of legal services. Certification helps consumers to identify lawyers who have experience and skill in a certain area of practice. Certification also helps lawyers by encouraging them to improve their expertise in particular areas of practice and providing them with a legitimate way of informing the public and other lawyers of this expertise."
North Carolina State Board Certification Requirements
North Carolina is one of only 18 states that offers a legal certification program. Although requirements vary from one specialty area to the next, to meet the minimum requirements, the applicant must:
- Be licensed and in good standing to practice law in North Carolina
- Be substantially involved in the practice area, usually for a minimum of five years
- Take a certain number of continuing legal education credits in the specialty area during the three years prior to application
- Be reviewed satisfactorily by their peers
- Achieve a satisfactory score on a written examination in the practice area
8 N.C. Board Certified Specialists at James Scott Farrin
Workers' Compensation Specialists
Doug Berger joined us in 2005 and is a shareholder of the firm. Mr. Berger is a former North Carolina Senator and also served as a Deputy Commissioner at the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) for 10 years.
Ryan Bliss joined the firm in 2012 after having been a worker's compensation defense attorney representing insurance companies. This experience allowed him to see how Workers' Compensation law is practiced from both sides.
Matt Harbin joined the firm in 2003 and became a shareholder in 2008. Mr. Harbin was appointed by (former) North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue to a two-and-a-half year term on the North Carolina Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, which he recently completed.
Matthew Healey ran a workers' compensation department at another N.C. firm prior to joining ours. He was selected to Best Lawyers in America's2 annual list of workers' compensation lawyers in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. North Carolina Super Lawyers listed him as a "Rising Star"3 in 2010 and a "Super Lawyer"4 in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Best Lawyers went a step further and named Mr. Healey as a workers' compensation "Lawyer of the Year"5 for Raleigh in 2015 and 2017.
Barry Jennings joined us in 2006 and is a shareholder. Mr. Jennings has earned the designation of "Rising Star"3 by North Carolina Super Lawyers in 2011, 2012, and 2013. He was selected to Best Lawyers in America's2 annual list of workers' compensation lawyers in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and received the 2016 6Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ designation - the gold standard in attorney ratings.
Michael Mackay is head of the firm's workers' compensation department and a shareholder at the firm. He joined in 2001 after having worked for one of the largest insurance defense firms in North Carolina, resolving instead to try to protect the rights of individuals and their families instead of representing corporate interests.
Susan Vanderweert represented insurance companies and employers for more than 12 years before joining our firm. Ms. Vanderweert has received the 2016 6Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ designation - the gold standard in attorney ratings.
Social Security Disability Specialist at James Scott Farrin
Rick Fleming joined the firm in 2002 and is a shareholder and head of the firm's Social Security Disability Department. He is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Fleming is the Fourth and DC Circuits Representative for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives Board of Directors and serves on the Nominations and Elections Committee. He is also vice chair of the N.C. State Bar's Social Security Disability Law Specialty Committee.
North Carolina Worker's Comp and Social Security Disability Specialists
While you probably would not want these attorneys piloting your Airbus A340 as it approaches the St. Martin runway (nor would they!), these board certified specialists have been highly trained and vetted to try to guide clients through what can sometimes be a turbulent battle for just compensation.
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1 Percentage as of December 31, 2015. Figures provided by the N.C. State Bar as of December 31, 2015.
2 Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey. For the 23rd edition of The Best Lawyers in America (2017) nearly 55,000 leading attorneys cast more than 7.3 million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel Magazine has called Best Lawyers "the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice." For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.bestlawyers.com.
3 To be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. Rising Stars undergo a rigorous, multiphase process which combines peer nominations with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made annually on a state by state basis. While up to 5% of the lawyers in any state are named "Super Lawyers," by Super Lawyers magazine, no more than 2.5% are named to the Rising Stars list. For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.superlawyers.com.
4 Super Lawyers undergo a rigorous, multiphase process which combines peer nominations with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made annually on a state-by-state basis. For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.superlawyers.com.
5 Only a single lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area is honored as the "Lawyer of the Year," making this accolade particularly significant. Lawyers being honored as "Lawyer of the Year" are selected based on particularly impressive voting averages received during the exhaustive peer-review assessments conducted with thousands of leading lawyers each year. Receiving this designation reflects the high level of respect a lawyer has earned among other leading lawyers in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism, and their integrity. For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.bestlawyers.com.
6 For more information regarding the standards for peer review ratings, visit www.martindale.com.