Board Certification 2019

I have previously written regarding board certification. See The Old Gray Mare She Ain't What She Used to Be. Back then, in 2012, there were 207 Florida Lawyers Board Certified in workers' compensation. 

This year I return to the subject of board certification. I congratulate the individuals who recently passed the strident examination, and joined the extremely small group of 190 Board Certified Worker’s Compensation attorneys in Florida. According to The Florida Bar, 88,741 attorneys are "eligible to practice" in Florida. Another 3,802 are members "in good standing," but not currently practicing due to reasons such as deferral for military service (163), exempt from continuing education as they are non-resident (2,083), or they are judges (1,469). Another 14,238 are neither eligible nor in good standing. 

Of the 90,210 (88,741 eligible plus 1,469 judges), only 5,230 (5.7%) are Board Certified in any specialty. The biggest groups of Board Certified attorneys are found in Civil Trial (1,083), Real Estate (450), and Criminal Trial (379). The smallest groups are Antitrust (9), Adoption (28), and Aviation (44). Since I wrote about certification in 2012, various groups have respectively seen growth or reductions. The chart below illustrates the membership figures from 2012 and now. Those in green have increased in membership since 2012 and a few, in red, have decreased. Though workers' compensation is in red, the decrease has not been significant. 

Certification requires a volume of experience, including representation of clients at no less than 25 contested hearings. Some may perceive that number as less than monumental. In truth a great many disputes, including the vast majority of Worker’s Compensation issues, are resolved by parties short of trial. Therefore a lawyer may spend years compiling such a record. 

Over the years, I have heard a great many attorney advertisements in which a lawyer's purported ability or willingness to proceed to trial is touted. But the reality of litigation, criminal, civil, Worker’s Compensation, and otherwise is that cases tend to resolve short of trial. Some of that propensity toward resolution is likely  driven by adjudicators. If a judge is thorough, consistent, and predictable that provides parties the information they need to effectively resolve their disputes without trial. On the contrary, if a judge is none of these, parties may be left with significant doubt and as a result concern. Thus, parties may resolve or settle based upon the strength of their knowledge.

But I pause this year for a couple of reasons. One, for the first time in several years, there is a new board-certified attorney in Pensacola Florida. Much transpires around the state, and while I have the upmost respect and admiration for many communities, Pensacola does somehow remain a focus for me. For many years, there were multiple board certified attorneys in Pensacola. But as time passed, those attorneys have either concluded careers, or elected not to renew this certification. It is encouraging to see a new generation appreciate the value of this hard-earned recognition. 

As I reflected upon this, it occurred to me that 2019 marks my 20th year as a board-certified Worker’s Compensation attorney. One attorney recently mentioned to me that because “you don’t practice,“ maybe that’s not really the same thing. And in truth, perhaps it is not. It has been a long time since I represented a client or tried cases.

The Four new to the list of certified attorneys this year are Jennifer G. Bellinson, Brian P. Carter, Eric M. Christiansen, and Nicolette E. Tsambis. Below is a short biography and photos.  

Ms. Bellinson is with the Law Offices of Jason L. Weissman in Hollywood, Florida. She is a 1996 graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, and was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1996.  

Mr. Carter is a shareholder in the firm Michles & Booth in Pensacola, Florida. He is a 2001 graduate of the University of Florida School of Law, and was admitted to The Florida Bar in 2001. 

Mr. Christiansen is an associate attorney at Lancaster & Eure in Sarasota, Florida. He is a 2003 graduate of the University of Florida School of Law, and was admitted to The Florida Bar in 2003.

Ms. Tsambis is with the Smith, Feddeler and Smith firm in Lakeland, Florida. She is a graduate of the Florida A&M University College of Law, and was admitted to the bar in 2008. 

I am pleased to congratulate each of them on attainment of this professional achievement. 

It is notable that Worker’s Compensation is one of the few board certifications which can be maintained by an adjudicator. In that regard, it is appropriate to recognize that there are ten certified attorneys currently serving as Florida workers' compensation judges. They are: Frank Clark (FTM), Robert Dietz (MEL), Thomas Hedler (WPB), Jeffrey Jacobs (MIA), Mark Massey (TPA), Stephen Rosen (SPT), Thomas Sculco (ORL), Margaret Sojourner (ORL), and Jack Weiss (FTM). In addition, two of the OJCC mediators are Board Certified: John Brooks (DAY) and Dawn Hayes (PSL).


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    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

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