Lawyer and Attorney: Is There A Difference?
All attorneys are lawyers, but it is improper to say that all lawyers are attorneys.
Who Are Lawyers?
A lawyer is someone who is educated in the law. A person who has been educated in the law will always be addressed as a lawyer, even if he or she does not give legal advice to other people. In fact, a lawyer in the United States is simply anyone who has gone through law school. However, the lawyer who has just completed law school may not be allowed to do certain legal jobs (e.g. representive you in court) until they successfully pass the bar exam that is conducted in the specific legal area they wish to practice.
Who Are Attorneys?
Attorneys are also recognized as lawyers. Attorneys graduate from law school and they can also choose to practice law as a profession. However a potential attorney must pass the bar exam to be eligible to practice law within a specific jurisdiction. Apart from performing the basic functions of a lawyer, attorneys can also act as legal representatives for their clients. An attorney does not just interpret the law; he or she also applies his knowledge of the law to provide the needs of his client. Attorneys act as lawyers but not all lawyers can perform the work of attorneys.
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Other differences: One of the essential steps involved in becoming an attorney is sitting for the bar exam. This is usually a rigorous test lasting two or three days and in many states the passing rate is below 50%. Conversely, a lawyer may work as a technical lawyer by serving as a consultant or policy advisor although he is not empowered to act as a legal representative.
Another term that is often misunderstood in law is "esquire". The term is an informal title for acknowledging educated people in the UK. Apart from being a title for solicitors and barristers (terms also used in the UK for legal professionals), it is also used to honor doctors and those that have successfully completed their doctorate courses. In the US, "esquire" is mostly used as a title for attorneys. Other people in the US who use the term "esquire" as a title may find themselves in trouble especially if they do the things that are solely reserved for lawyers.
Although it is possible to differentiate these terms, the real meaning of the words can only be appreciated by a lawyer. Many people just feel safe to interchange these terms inasmuch as the lawyer in charge of their case also acts as an attorney.
Everyday, people make use of the words "attorney" and "lawyer" on televisions and newspapers. Sometimes, our family and friends may also talk about their need for a lawyer or attorney. These words are often interpreted to mean the same, but they are actually two different things. Although there is little difference between them, state bar associations consider it very important to use them appropriately, especially in cases where the practice of law is investigated. However, the two words are often interchanged in the United States.
The following links provide more information for understanding these different legal professions.
- What Is a Lawyer (PDF): Information on this page includes the definition of a lawyer, the cost of hiring one, how to get one, what to do after getting a lawyer and what to do if a lawyer does not perform up to one’s expectation.
- Lawyer Defined: The page defines the responsibilities of a lawyer in the US and the kinds of law practiced in the country.
- Hiring an Attorney: This includes factors to consider when looking for an attorney. Questions to ask a potential one is also included on the page.
- Lawyers: Discover the nature of a lawyer’s work, his employment, job outlook and other relevant information.
- FAQs about Attorneys: Questions answered on this page include the importance of a lawyer, how to choose one and how to find the juris number of an attorney.
- What is a Barrister?: The page has a description of what barristers are and the steps involved in becoming one.
- What Barristers Do: Find out the duties of a barrister, how to get one and what it costs to hire one.
- Potential Lawyer FAQs: This page is a good resource for people that want to study law. Important attributes that potential lawyers should have are explained on the page.
- How to Become an Attorney: There are four steps explained on this page for youths and kids to be acquainted with.
- How to Become a Lawyer (PDF): Points discussed on this page include the job description of lawyers, their work environment, carrier outlook, income and educational requirements.