Oxner + Permar has more board-certified specialists than any other firm representing injured workers. North Carolina is one of 18 states that has a process by which an attorney can demonstrate a mastery of the law and be officially labeled a board-certified specialist in a particular field. You probably didn’t realize this, but lawyers are not ethically permitted to use terms like “expert” or “best” to describe themselves. Such terms are so subjective that just about any one can call themselves the best. So the North Carolina State Bar created a very difficult system for letting an attorney prove they really know the law.

There are three steps to becoming board certified.

First, an attorney must apply for permission to be considered. We must have several years of experience, we must dedicate a sizable amount of our time to the specific field, we must complete a detailed questionnaire explaining our experience (that we have taken extra training in this field), we must show that we have handled a large number of cases, show that we have had mediations, hearings, Full Commission appeals and cases in the Court of Appeals.

Second, the State Bar interviews ten or more attorneys who work against us. These are not our partners — they are either our competitors or attorneys on the other side of us. Attorneys anonymously grade others in terms of competency, success and understanding of the law.

If an attorney passes the first two steps then we are invited to sit for a day-long written examination (the Third step). This test covers the entire breadth of workers comp law, the Industrial Commission rules, the regulations governing vocational and medical rehabilitation, and is generally just an awful experience. Many attorneys have to repeat the examination the next year before passing it.

So why is it important to hire a firm with board-certified specialists? You’ve only got one crack at your case. Do you really want to trust it to a firm that hasn’t demonstrated that it really understands and succeeds at the law? Anyone can buy the back of the phone book or put an ad on television. Only a few attorneys are board-certified specialists.