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Certified Specialist Program FAQs

Why is the Certified Specialist Program being wound down?

The Law Society’s Competence Task Force had conducted a study and profession-wide consultation on all Law Society competence programs and, after this review, recommended winding down the Certified Specialist Program. The reasons for the Competence Task Force’s recommendation can be found in the Task Force’s final report. Certified Specialists can continue to use their C.S. designation until December 31, 2022, after which time it will be discontinued. The Certified Specialist Program will continue for Indigenous Legal Issues in recognition of the key role that this designation plays in the Law Society’s Indigenous Framework and commitments to reconciliation.

We recognize that the decision to wind down the program will have specific impacts for Certified Specialists. To this end, we will continue to provide information respecting the wind-down through the Law Society website and direct communications with Certified Specialists.

What information did the Competence Task Force and Convocation rely on to make this determination?

The Competence Task Force conducted a profession wide consultation and ten focus groups. The final report of the Competence Task Force as well as submissions to the Task Force and the final report on the focus groups is available on the Competence Framework webpage.  

Why did the Competence Task Force Report recommend that I could keep using the C.S. designation until I retire; but Convocation limited its usage until December 31, 2022?

Convocation accepted the Competence Task Force’s recommendations with respect to winding down the Certified Specialist Program. A motion was brought at Convocation to amend the Task Force recommendation to discontinue the C.S. designation usage effective December 31, 2022. The webcast of the Convocation debate on this motion is available here – beginning at the 1:50:55 mark. You can also view the transcripts from May 26 Convocation.

Can I still indicate that I was previously a Certified Specialist?

Lawyers who have held a Certified Specialist designation may indicate that they were a Certified Specialist between certain years (for example, “Certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a Specialist in Real Estate Law from 2004-2022”).

Can I still display my Certified Specialist certificate after December 31, 2022?

Lawyers who were Certified Specialists can continue to display their certificate in their office. If it is displayed on a website it should be accompanied by a comment stating the years which the lawyer was recognized as a Certified Specialist. 

What is the status of the Indigenous Legal Issues specialization?

The Certified Specialist Program will continue for Indigenous Legal Issues in recognition of the key role that this designation plays in the Law Society’s Indigenous Framework and commitments to reconciliation. Certified Specialists in Indigenous Legal Issues will continue to be able to use their C.S. designation after December 31, 2022 so long as they continue to fulfil all of their requirements under By-Law 15.


I have never been a Certified Specialist. Can I now use the term “specialist” to describe my practice area?

Rule 4.3-1 of Ontario’s Rules of Professional Conduct states “A lawyer shall not advertise that the lawyer is a specialist in a specific field unless the lawyer has been so certified by the Law Society.”

Further, Section 20 (2) of By-Law 15 states “A licensee who is not a certified specialist shall not use any designation from which a person might reasonably conclude that the licensee is a certified specialist.”

Both of these remain in force; however the Law Society's Professional Regulation Committee and Convocation will be considering whether to amend this Rule and By-Law between now and December 31, 2022.

Can I use other terms such as ‘expert’ or ‘certified as an expert by [another organization]’?

Section 4.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct sets out lawyers’ professional obligations when they market professional services. Rule 4.2-1 states that “A lawyer may market legal services only if the marketing (a) is demonstrably true, accurate and verifiable; (b) is neither misleading, confusing, or deceptive, nor likely to mislead, confuse or deceive; and (c) is in the best interests of the public and is consistent with a high standard of professionalism.”

Can I use terms such as “specialize”, “specializing in” or “specialization” when describing my practice area?

The Law Society Tribunal Appeal Division provided guidance on this issue at paragraphs 37-57 of Law Society of Ontario v. Rothman, 2021 ONLSTA 13.

Will I be getting a refund for money that I paid to get or maintain my C.S. designation?

The Law Society is considering how to appropriately address this issue. Further details will be circulated to all Certified Specialists shortly.

I still have a question. Who should I contact?

All enquiries may be directed to the Law Society of Ontario at certspec@lso.ca.

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