The molecular mechanisms controlling the differentiation of neural progenitors into distinct subtypes of neurons during neocortical development are unknown. Here, we report that Fezl is required for the specification of corticospinal motor neurons and other subcerebral projection neurons, which are absent from Fezl null mutant neocortex. There is neither an increase in cell death in Fezl(-/-) cortex nor abnormalities in migration, indicating that the absence of subcerebral projection neurons is due to a failure in fate specification. In striking contrast, other neuronal populations in the same and other cortical layers are born normally. Overexpression of Fezl results in excess production of subcerebral projection neurons and arrested migration of these neurons in the germinal zone. These data indicate that Fezl plays a central role in the specification of corticospinal motor neurons and other subcerebral projection neurons, controlling early decisions regarding lineage-specific differentiation from neural progenitors.