NEW MEXICO BOARD OF LEGAL SPECIALIZATION AN AGENCY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW MEXICO STANDARDS FOR LEGAL SPECIALIZATION FAMILY LAW

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1 NEW MEXICO BOARD OF LEGAL SPECIALIZATION AN AGENCY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW MEXICO Post Office Box Albuquerque, New Mexico (505) Fax (505) STANDARDS FOR LEGAL SPECIALIZATION FAMILY LAW By virtue of the authority vested in the Family Law Specialty Committee (Committee), and the New Mexico Board of Legal Specialization (Board) by the New Mexico Supreme Court (Court), the Board adopts the following standards and procedures for certification, recertification, and decertification as a specialist in Family Law. I. GENERAL REQUIREMENTS AND DEFINITIONS A. All applicants for certification or recertification in Family Law must be active members in good standing with the New Mexico Bar and shall meet the requirements for certification or recertification governed by the Rules of the New Mexico Board of Legal Specialization and prescribed by the Committee. B. Forms, documents, applications, questionnaires, and examinations involved in the certification, recertification, or decertification process, as well as fees required of applicants and certified lawyers shall be as prescribed by the Committee and the Board. C. Certification shall be for a period of five years at the end of which time recertification shall be permitted as indicated in IV, below. D. Family Law is the practice of law dealing with all aspects of antenuptial and domestic relationships, annulment, separation and divorce, alimony and child support, child custody matters, property and debt division, marital torts, paternity, adoption, family law settlement facilitation and family law mediation, giving due consideration to the tax consequences, including retirement plan values and divisions, and court proceedings relating thereto both trial and appeal, and pre and post decree. E. Applicants for certification or recertification shall furnish satisfactory evidence of their good character and reputation. Unless otherwise prohibited by the Supreme Court Rules on Disciplinary Procedures, they shall also provide information in whatever form required by the Committee as to whether they are now subject to an investigation, complaint, inquiry, or other disciplinary proceedings by any segment of the Bar, including but not limited to any local, state, or other grievance board, committee, or commission; and if so, the details of such investigation, complaint, inquiry, or proceedings including whether they have ever been reprimanded, suspended, disbarred, or otherwise disciplined by any court or grievance committee. 1

2 F. The Committee may recommend denial of certification or recertification on a finding of a grievance committee, a court, or administrative agency or other governmental agency that an applicant has been guilty of professional misconduct, or may defer its recommendation on certification or recertification based upon the pendency of such proceedings. However, the Committee will consider the seriousness of the underlying facts of the grievance, the passage of time since such discipline, the applicant s experience since that time, and any history of other disciplinary actions or pending actions. Failure to disclose such information is a material misrepresentation and may be cause for denial of the application. G. An applicant shall apply for certification or recertification as a specialist by completing and filing with the Committee an application form furnished by the Board calling for information indicative of and relevant to the applicant's involvement experience, competency, and practice in the field of Family Law in accordance with Rule NMRA. By completing and filing such application, the applicant shall be deemed to have authorized the Committee to take all appropriate action to resolve any questions with respect to the applicant's involvement, experience, competency, and practice in the field of Family Law and to verify the information furnished by the applicant in making the application. In the appraisal of each applicant, the Committee will take such steps as it deems advisable or necessary under the circumstances to assure that the applicant presented to the Board for certification as a specialist is a lawyer who is technically competent in the field and of whom the Committee has no notice of any personal or ethical deficiencies that might impair the applicant s professional performance as a specialist. Accordingly, the Committee shall require each applicant to disclose any information needed to determine whether to present his/her application to the Board for certification. The Committee not only may verify information submitted by the applicant, but may, in its discretion, conduct its own investigation into the applicant's competency, experience, involvement and reputation. Should the Committee determine that an applicant's competency, character, experience, involvement, or reputation does not support his/her application for certification, the Committee shall recommend denial of the application subject to such rights of hearing and appeal as may be promulgated by the Board and the Court. H. In accordance with Rule NMRA and II D, an applicant for certification or recertification as a specialist shall submit the names and addresses of four (4) lawyers licensed in New Mexico engaged in the practice of law, as defined in II A and who have worked on cases with the applicant during the last three (3) years, and one (1) judge hearing or reviewing family law cases before whom the applicant has practiced during the last three (3) years, and who are familiar with applicant's practice and who are not partners, associates or members of this Committee, the Board or the New Mexico Supreme Court, to be contacted as references to attest to the applicant s experience, involvement, and competency in the practice of Family Law. The Committee may, in its discretion, and without notice to an applicant, secure information concerning an applicant's practice, involvement, experience, and competency in the specialty area from lawyers and judges other than those whose names are submitted by an applicant. I. In addition to other requirements herein, the Committee may, in its sole discretion, require additional information from a particular applicant when in its 2

3 judgment such additional information is necessary to a decision with respect to certification, recertification, or decertification. II. MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR CERTIFICATION A. REQUIRED PERIOD OF LAW PRACTICE Applicants shall have been engaged in the practice of law for a period of 5 years on a full-time basis. Practice of law means full-time legal work done primarily for the purpose of providing legal advice or representation services, after admission to the Bar of any state or the District or Columbia, including service as a judge of any court of record, as an administrative law judge, arbitrator, law teacher or judicial clerk (at state and federal courts and administrative agencies). Corporate or government service, including military service, as an attorney, after admission to the Bar of any state or the District of Columbia, shall be considered practice of law if the work done was legal in nature and primarily for the purpose of giving legal advice to, or representation of, the corporation or government agency or individuals primarily connected with the corporation or government agency. B. SUBSTANTIAL INVOLVEMENT Applicants must show substantial involvement and special competency in Family Law practice as a licensed New Mexico attorney during the five years immediately preceding application by providing such information as may be required by the Committee and as set forth in Rule19-203(C) NMRA. During each of the five years immediately preceding application, applicants must show that their time devoted to the practice of Family Law as defined herein (see I D) was not less than 33.3% of a normal full-time practice of law, or the equivalent annual hours (i.e. 624 hours based on a work year of 2080 hours). This requirement may be waived upon application for attorneys who met this requirement at least seven (7) of the last ten (10) years. However, if during each of the three (3) years preceding application, the applicant's time spent in the practice of Family Law is not less than ninety percent (90%) or 1872 hours annually of a normal full-time practice of law, or if during each of the four (4) years preceding application, the applicant's time spent in the practice of Family Law is not less than seventy-five percent (75%) or 1560 hours annually of a normal full-time practice of law, the substantial involvement requirement will be met. An applicant who has spent an equivalent amount of time as a law professor, a judge, or a hearing officer, may seek certification pursuant to the provisions of V herein. C. CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION - MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS During the three years preceding application for initial certification, applicants must have earned credit for not less than hours of continuing legal education (CLE) in approved courses or programs dealing with Family Law which may include but not limited to evidence, civil procedure, ethics, psychology, accounting, tax, and estate planning. Training in alternative dispute resolution is particularly recommended. For the purpose of this requirement, approved courses or programs shall mean courses/programs approved by the Committee for the Family Law specialty or courses/programs that would qualify for such approval and as set forth in Rules (D) and NMRA. 3

4 D. PEER REVIEW Applicants must make a satisfactory showing of qualification through peer review by providing five references who shall be attorneys and judges The applicant shall make a satisfactory showing of qualification through peer review. The applicant must provide five (5) references of whom one (1) may be a judge hearing or reviewing family law cases, before whom the applicant has practiced during the last three (3) years, and four (4) attorneys who have worked on cases with the applicant during the last three (3) years. The references provided shall be familiar with the competence and qualifications of the applicant within the three (3) years preceding application. In determining competence and qualifications the references shall take into consideration both the applicant's ability to try cases if necessary, and the applicant's ability to resolve cases in a nonadversarial fashion where appropriate and must otherwise meet criteria set forth in Rules (E) and NMRA. E. FEES Applicants shall timely pay the fees established from time to time by the Committee and the Board, including but not limited to application fees, filing fees, examination fees, and certification fees. F. FAILURE, TO FURNISH INFORMATION; MISREPRESENTATION Certification or recertification may be denied because of applicant's failure to furnish requested information or because of misrepresentation of any material fact requested by the Committee. III. REQUIREMENTS FOLLOWING CERTIFICATION A. The annual continuing legal education (CLE) requirement for all certified Family Law specialists shall be hours of approved specialty CLE. CLE credit in excess of hours may be carried forward to the next calendar year. Provided, however, that each calendar year, certified specialists in Family Law shall complete at least 7 6 hours of specialty CLE without regard to any carry forward credit from the prior year. Approved specialty continuing legal education means educational activities approved by the Committee for the specialty as set forth in Rules (B)(2) and NMRA. B. Each certified specialist must pay such fees as the Board may from time to time prescribe. C. During the period of certification, all certified specialists must continue to practice law and to be substantially involved in the practice of Family Law (see II, A & B, regarding the meaning of practice of law and substantially involved in the practice of Family Law). Should any certified specialist cease to practice law or to be substantially involved in the practice of Family Law, he/she shall promptly notify the Committee for such action with respect to decertification as the Committee shall deem to be appropriate. The failure of a certified specialist to notify the Committee that he/she is no longer engaged in the practice of law or substantially involved in the practice of Family Law may constitute grounds for decertification of the individual concerned. 4

5 D. During any period of initial or subsequent certification, each certified specialist shall report to the Board any administrative action or malpractice claim in which settlement is made or suit is filed and unless otherwise prohibited by Supreme Court Rules on Disciplinary Procedures, shall likewise report to the Board any case in which he/she learns that he/she is the subject of an investigation, inquiry or other disciplinary proceedings by any segment of the Bar, including but not limited to any local, state or other grievance board, committee or commission. IV. RECERTIFICATION A. Renewal of certification shall be required every five years as set forth in Rule NMRA and the additional standards set forth above for initial certification as a specialist in Family Law. B. Applicants must demonstrate their continuing substantial involvement and special competency in the practice of Family Law as may be required by the Committee. However, except as provided in IV C below, requirements for recertification shall not exceed the requirements for original certification. C. To qualify for recertification, applicants must demonstrate the completion of a minimum of hours of approved specialty continuing legal education (CLE) in the five years since their original or latest certification. V. WAIVERS In cases of rare and unusual circumstances, the Family Law Specialty Committee may request a waiver from compliance with any of the standards for certifying or recertifying an individual as a specialist in Family Law. The Board, upon recommendation from the Family Law Specialty Committee, may waive a showing of compliance with these standards for certification or continued certification as a specialist in Family Law if circumstances so warrant. Such waiver must be based upon specific findings of fact by the Committee showing why such waiver is not inconsistent with the objectives of these Family Law standards. Such waiver may be conditioned by the Board upon meeting substitute requirements. A waiver may not be granted to certify an individual who has not practiced law for at least three years and who has not been substantially involved in the practice of Family Law for at least three years, or who does not meet the minimum standards set forth in the Rules of the New Mexico Board of Legal Specialization (Rules to NMRA). VI. AMENDMENT The Board reserves the right at any time, and from time to time, to amend the standards for specialization in Family Law, whether or not applications are pending. VII. EFFECTIVE DATE These Standards and Procedures shall be effective January 1997 or whenever approved by the New Mexico Board of Legal Specialization, whichever date is later. [Effective January 1, 1997; August 14, 2004; December 11, 2004; February 4, 2006] 5

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