Workers' Compensation Law Specialty Certification

Lawyer specialty certification benefits lawyers, consumers of legal services and the legal profession.
On Jan. 12, 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recognized the Pennsylvania Bar Association Workers' Compensation Law Section as a certifying organization in the area of workers' compensation law.

PBA Workers’ Compensation Section Announces Names of Lawyers Certified in Area of Workers’ Compensation Law
In May 2014, 32 lawyers were certified by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Workers’ Compensation Law Section as specialists in the practice of workers’ compensation law. They comprise the second group of lawyers to have successfully completed the workers’ compensation certification process, joining 149 other lawyers who completed the process in 2013. A list of the attorneys who have been certified to date in workers' compensation law is provided below.

Certified Legal Specialists in Workers’ Compensation Law

The Application Period for Workers’ Compensation Certification Is Now Closed; Next Application Period: Fall 2015
Below you will find information on how to apply for workers' compensation law specialty certification and answers to frequently asked questions about legal specialization certification and the certification process.

Application Process

Testing Dates
The next exam will be given Friday, March 13, 2015. This is the only exam that will be given.

Maintaining Your Certification

  • Upon certification as a legal specialist in workers’ compensation law, attorneys are required to pay an annual fee to cover administrative fees and maintain their certification with the Review and Certifying Board. The certification year runs from July 1 through June 30.
  • Certified attorneys are also required to submit reports of continuing legal education from the Supreme Court Continuing Legal Education Board, for the period July 1 through June 30, evidencing the completion of at least nine hours of mandatory continuing legal education in the field of workers’ compensation as required by Section 6.a.1.g) of Article IX of the PBA Workers Compensation Law Section Bylaws. A list of approved courses and seminars is provided here.
  • Certified attorneys will receive an invoice and letter in May reminding them of this requirement.

Certified attorneys are permitted to use the following language when communicating about your certification to the public: "Certified as a specialist in the practice of workers' compensation law by the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Section on Workers' Compensation Law as authorized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court." This language can be used on your website, marketing brochures, news releases and other public communications.

Below you will find information on workers' compensation law specialty certification and answers to frequently asked questions about legal specialization certification and the certification process.

Two Multiple-Choice Sample Questions
These sample questions will not appear on the exam.

Please refer to Section 8 of the Bylaws of the PBA Workers' Compensation Law Section for details on the exam and scoring.

In summary, the exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and two essays. If an applicant scores 80 or better on the multiple choice questions, the essay questions will not be read. A score of 80 on the multiple-choice is in effect an automatic passing of the exam. The essays are worth ten (10) points each. Thus, if the examinee scores at least 60, he or she may potentially pass by achieving a 10 on each essay. In order to receive a passing grade, an applicant must score 80 or more points on the entire examination.

The exam focuses on familiar portions of the law and rules, as well as leading case law, and not on obscure points. Still, the individual taking the exam must prepare by way of reviewing the statute, Rules, and court precedents. A review of the appellate rules is also recommended. The multiple-choice questions are based on the subject areas detailed in Article IX, Section 8. The potential examinee should review the act and the Rules of Practice before both WCJs and the Appeal Board.

Each multiple-choice question sets forth a hypothetical scenario followed by a directive that the examinee should identify the critical issues and then posit what are, in the examinee's view, the most likely result(s) under Pennsylvania law. Two mock questions appear below as examples. The essays, meanwhile, follow the pattern of the narrative questions with which all are familiar from LSAT, law school, and bar examination.

Consistent with the Bylaws, the time frames for completion are as follow: Multiple Choice Questions: 2½ hours; Essay Question A: 45 minutes; Essay Question B: 45 minutes. The maximum period for taking the exam is four hours.

Sample question: The law governing recovery in a "mental stress causing mental disability case" is best described as follows:

A. Under a statutory provision, the claimant must prove that "abnormal working conditions" caused claimant's injury; what is abnormal must be considered vis-à-vis claimant's occupation.
B. Under case law, the claimant must prove that "abnormal working conditions" caused his injury; what is abnormal must be considered vis-à-vis claimant's occupation.
C. Under a statutory provision, such claims are not compensable: "For the purposes of this chapter, no alleged injury or disease shall be recognized as a compensable injury or disease which was solely caused by nonphysical means and which did not result in any physical injury or disease to the person claiming benefits. It is the purpose of this section to clarify that so-called mental-mental claims are not compensable. …"
D. Under case law, such claims are not compensable. According to the court, "The business-friendly reforms of Act 57 of 1996 cause us to believe that we can no longer infer that mental stress causing mental disability injuries, with their inherent subjectivity, are to be compensated in the Commonwealth."

Sample question: The law surrounding determination of whether an injured worker is an employee or independent contractor can best be described as follows:

A. The definitions of these work categories are governed entirely by the common law (i.e., court decisions).
B. The definitions of these work categories are governed entirely by provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act.
C. The definitions of these work categories are governed by a combination of provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act, another statute of recent enactment addressing the construction industry, and the common law (i.e., court decisions).
D. The definitions of these work categories are governed by federal law, and necessarily, because of preemption, mirror the rules surrounding the employee/independent contractor distinction for federal income tax purposes.

Please click here for the answers to the sample questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I become certified?
Certification of lawyers in workers' compensation law will give consumers valuable guidance when choosing lawyers to handle their cases. Certification also will provide legal practitioners the opportunity to more effectively highlight their knowledge and expertise in the area of workers' compensation law to current and future clients.

Who is responsible for certification?
A 12-member Certification Committee of the PBA Workers' Compensation Law Section is responsible for the certification process. By order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (No. 105), "And now this 12th day of January, 2012, upon consideration of the recommendation of the Pennsylvania Review and Certifying Board, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Workers' Compensation Law Section is hereby accredited as a certifying organization in the area of Workers' Compensation Law for the period from January 12, 2012 to January 12, 2017." Certification is also governed by Rule 7.4 (Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, beginning on page 83.

What qualifications do I need to take the workers' compensation law specialty certification examination?
To qualify to take the specialty certification examination, you must establish by documentation the following:

  • that you are admitted to practice in Pennsylvania;
  • that you have been actively engaged in the practice of law for a minimum of five years ;
  • that you devote a minimum of 50 percent of your practice to the specialty field of workers' compensation.

You must also submit a variety of documents showing active practice in the workers' compensation law field and participation in mandatory Continuing Legal Education in workers' compensation law. (Refer to the Bylaws, Section 6, Criteria for Certification.)

What can I expect during the examination process?
Following the Certification Committee's approval for you to take the examination, you will receive notice of the location, date and time for the examination. The examination will be given annually or more frequently if circumstances require. The examination will include essay questions and multiple-choice questions. The questions will be revised annually to incorporate new developments and eliminate repetitive questions. (Refer to the Bylaws, Section 8, Certification Examination.)

How is the test scored?
In order to receive a passing grade an applicant must score 80 or more points on the entire examination. If an applicant scores 80 or better on the multiple choice questions the essay questions will not be read. (For details on scoring, refer the Bylaws, Section 8 a. 3. and 4., Scoring and Grading Procedure.)

When will I be notified of my exam results?
You will receive notification of your examination results several months after the test date.

How much will I pay to take the exam and to maintain certification?
The initial application fee is $325 and is due when the application is submitted. Upon verification and qualification to sit for the exam, applicants will be required to pay a $150 exam fee. Certification is for a period of five years; however, there is an annual fee for years two, three, four and five. (Refer to the Bylaws, Section 9, Terms of Certification and Recertification.)

When is the certification year?
The certification year is July 1 through June 30 of each year.

What happens in years two, three, four and five? What are the requirements to maintain my certification?

  • Upon certification as a legal specialist in workers’ compensation law, attorneys are required to pay an annual fee to cover administrative fees and maintain their certification with the Review and Certifying Board. The certification year runs from July 1 through June 30.
  • Certified attorneys are also required to submit reports of continuing legal education from the Supreme Court Continuing Legal Education Board, for the period July 1 through June 30, evidencing the completion of at least nine hours of mandatory continuing legal education in the field of workers’ compensation as required by Section 6.a.1.g) of Article IX of the PBA Workers’ Compensation Law Section Bylaws.
  • Certified attorneys will receive an invoice and letter in May reminding them of this requirement.

What happens after the initial five-year certification?
Certification is for a period of five years. Attorneys are required to submit an Application for Recertification six months prior to the expiration of their certificate and pay a recertification application fee. The Recertification Application shall contain all of the information required in the initial application for certification; however, no test is required. Upon verification and qualification, the applicant will be recertified for a new term of five years. (Refer to the Bylaws, Section 9, Terms of Certification and Recertification.)

If I pass the test, how can I let current and future clients know that I am certified?
If you pass the exam, you will be permitted to use the following language when communicating about your certification to the public: "Certified as a specialist in the practice of workers' compensation law by the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Section on Workers' Compensation Law as authorized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court." This language can be used on your website, marketing brochures, news releases and other public communications.

Can my certification be revoked?
The Certification Committee has the authority to revoke your certification under certain circumstances such as non-payment of annual certification maintenance fees and public misuse of language about your certification. (Refer to the Bylaws, Section 10, Revocation of Certification.) The committee has an appeal process for such cases. (Refer to the Bylaws, Section 11, Appeal Procedures.)

Contact Information
If additional information is needed, contact the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Tameka Altadonna at 800-932-0311, ext. 2280, or Tameka.Altadonna@pabar.org.

For publication purposes and to receive communication about your certification, it is your responsibility to inform the Pennsylvania Bar Association of any changes in your contact information. To update your information please log in to your PBA account here or contact Tameka Altadonna.