In order to practice law in the United States, a personal injury lawyer must pass a written bar examination and, in some cases, a written ethics examination. Bar examinations vary on a state-to-state basis. However, most states require applicants to have completed a four-year college degree and a law degree from an accredited law school (California is one notable exception, but the non-accredited law school must meet certain requirements.)
In all states, a personal injury lawyer is required to take the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) and a state bar exam. Some states require another exam, the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), as well.
Once admitted to the state bar, personal injury lawyers must remain up-to-date on the latest legal and non-legal developments in their field of practice, by completing a required number of continuing legal education (CLE) courses to help personal injury lawyers stay abreast of developments in their field.
Lawyers can concentrate their practices to certain areas of law, which is typically true of personal injury lawyers. By limiting the range of cases they handle, personal injury lawyers are able to acquire specialized knowledge and experience. However, to be certified as a specialist in personal injury, a lawyer must complete a specialty certification program accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Certification programs have set standards of competence, knowledge and experience that lawyers must meet in order to be recognized in their area of practice as a specialist. Lawyers who have completed a specialty certification program in personal injury law at an accredited certifying organization are recognized as personal injury specialists. Some states, such as New Jersey, offer a certification as a "Certified Trial Attorney", which can be for both plaintiff and defense attorneys.