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Linda Stepan recertified as workers’ comp specialist

RICHARD WEINER
Legal News Reporter

Published: February 11, 2013

Attorney Linda Stepan, a partner at Brouse McDowell, has been recertified by the Ohio State Bar Association in the workers’ compensation specialty area.

This is the second time that she has been recertified as a specialist in this area.

“I have practiced workers’ comp for a long time, and I really love it as a career,” said Stepan.

Stepan, a Cleveland native, has her bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University and received her juris doctor in 1991 from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. She has been named as a Super Lawyer for 2013.

“Law is my second career,” she said. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Stepan had a successful career as an on-air radio personality in the northeast Ohio market until about 10 years ago, so she practiced law and was also on the air at the same time for a while. She now volunteers at 91.3 The Summit, a public radio station connected to the Akron Public School system.

Stepan said that she “like(s) the practice and who I get to work with. I represent employers, and I really like getting to help them go through the whole process.”

The whole process, she said, ranges from helping to establish workplace safety standards, investigating potential employee claims, and deciding to settle or fight those claims. “I help them deal with claims, and in investing in safety and making good decisions.”

If there is a need to go before a tribunal, Stepan is right at home. “I really like the administrative process,” she said. “I attend hearings almost every day.”

Continual tribunal appearances fit in with her background in communication, she said. “It is not like being a litigating attorney. I don’t have to wait a year to appear in court. I’m practicing (her communications skills) every day. It is similar to performing. You have to know your audience and be able to talk to them.”

Beyond that, she said that her practice focuses on the pragmatic. “Administrative law is very practical. It gets things done.”

Attorney certification in Ohio is administered by the Ohio State Bar Association. According to the OSBA, the organizations "specialization program" was created to give licensed Ohio attorneys the ability to become certified as specialists in particular areas of law.

Currently, these areas of specialization are limited to administrative agency law, appellate law, estate planning, trust, and probate law, family relations law, federal taxation law, insurance coverage law, labor and employment law, real property--business, commercial and industrial law, real property—residential law,nd workers’ compensation law.

The OSBA is authorized to certify legal specialists by the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Certification of Attorneys as Specialists (CCAS). In accrediting this program, the OSBA said that, “the CCAS has evaluated our programs and recognizes that they meet certain minimum standards established by the commission and required by the Ohio Supreme Court under rule XIV….OSBA certification is a voluntary process that requires a commitment to excellence.”

In order for an Ohio attorney to be certified as a specialist, that lawyer must take and pass a written examination in their specialty field, demonstrate a high level of substantial involvement in the specialty area (which is normally construed to mean that the attorney must practice in that area at in an amount equivalent to least 25 percent of the attorney’s practice), fulfill ongoing education requirements and be favorably evaluated, in writing, by other attorneys and judges familiar with their work.

The specialist must take specialized CLE, and take twice as much CLE as non-specialist Ohio lawyers.

Most lawyers who specialize would take that much CLE in their areas anyway, said Stepan.

“If you are not a specialist, you do not (necessarily) have to take specific CLE topics,” she said. “But we have to be able to advise clients on their workers’ comp issues as they arise. We can’t just wait until December to take all of our credits.”

The chair of the OSBA committee that creates and grades the specialization tests in workers’ compensation is Robert A. Minor and attorney in the Columbus office of Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease LLP. Other attorneys on the panel are Christopher Clark (Mansfield), Martha Krebs (Cleveland), Mary Reynolds (North Canton), Scott Armour (Wilmington), Suzanne Norton (Toledo) and William L. S. Ross (Cleveland). Attorneys David Barnhart (Columbus) and Ronald Slipski (Youngstown) are ex officio members.


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