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What Is an Attorney at Law?

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What Is an Attorney at Law?

A lawyer, attorney at law, or attorney is a professional who is licensed to practice law in a given jurisdiction. To "practice law" means to represent a client before a court of law, or to give legal advice.

What Is Required to Become an Attorney?

While the requirements differ from state to state, generally, a lawyer must have a bachelor's degree or equivalent, and must have graduated from an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school with a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. Lawyers who have gone to law school in a foreign country are usually required to obtain a Master of Laws (LL.M) before they are allowed to take a state bar examination. How to choose the right law school is a daunting prospect for an aspiring lawyer.

When a person graduates from law school, they do not automatically become a lawyer. Every state in the U.S. requires that a law school graduate take a state bar exam. This is a long, rigorous exam that tests the graduate's legal knowledge and his or her ability to apply it in specific situations. Additionally, the state bar must decide that the graduate has a good moral character before he or she can be admitted to the state bar. Once admitted to the state bar, the graduate is considered a licensed attorney and can practice law in that state.

What Are Attorneys Allowed to Do?

Only an attorney can practice law. The practice of law includes everything from giving legal advice to representing a client before a court of law. There are only very limited situations where a non-lawyer would be allowed to practice law. Non-lawyers might be allowed to give legal information in certain situations, and in many states, government agencies allow non-lawyers to act as representatives during agency hearings.

What Is the Difference between and Attorney, a Paralegal, and a Notary Public?

A paralegal is not a lawyer. A paralegal is a person with some specialized legal training which allows him or her to assist lawyers in their daily tasks. They usually perform tasks such as research and writing.

A "notary public" is also not a lawyer. A notary public helps to make it easier to authenticate documents by notarizing them. Typically these documents are wills, contracts, and even deeds. If either a paralegal or notary public offers you their services as a lawyer, you should decline immediately, and report them to the state bar for the unauthorized practice of law.

Photo of page author Jessica Tam

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 09-21-2017 09:43 AM PDT

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