Most people often use the terms attorney and lawyer interchangeably. They do not give it a second’s thought since the difference seems to be very little and inconsequential. Of course, it couldn’t if we did know the actual difference between these two terms.
This article presents the slight differences between law synonyms (you need to know).
What is the Difference Between a Lawyer and an Attorney?
First, let us talk about the term lawyer. Basically, it refers to a person who has knowledge of the law and is trained in its discipline. However, contrary to what many of us came to believe, a lawyer need not necessarily practice this profession. This is because, in order to become a lawyer, at least in the United States, one only needs to finish law school.
Of course, most law students opt to take the bar exam after they graduate. Of course, passing the bar exam is required in order for a person to practice law and provide legal representation. But, apparently, this need not be the case if you just want to be known as a lawyer. However, the drawbacks to this would be enormous, as your employment opportunities will be severely limited.
On the other hand, an attorney (or attorney-at-law) is defined specifically as a practitioner of the law. They have the legal mandate to prosecute and defend actions of their clients in a court of law. This is because, upon passing the Bar Exam, they have successfully proven their mettle and have thus been classified as being able to perform this specific task.
In fact, the English word attorney traces its origins to the French language. Its original meaning pertains to “a person acting for another as an agent or deputy.” Even the original French definition captures the essence of what being an attorney means.
Other Important Title Distinctions
As illustrated above, the distinction between terms and titles in the United States is paper thin. However, in other countries all over the world, such as Wales and England, the difference between the terms being used is more clearly defined and differentiated. Let us look at some of the other titles they use.
- Solicitor – The English use this term to refer to a lawyer who faces any legal matter. While they provide legal advice to clients, solicitors do not handle cases at court. Rather, they prepare all the necessary legal documents
- Barristers – These are the lawyers which the solicitors call upon if a particular case of theirs is in need of a court appearance. Through this system, a barrister does not get to work with clients directly. Rather, they receive referrals from the solicitors. It should be worth noting that Barristers are also sometimes called advocates in England.
This article presented the difference between law titles. It gave particular focus to the difference between lawyers and attorneys. There are simply differences to the synonyms you must know. Try to always keep these in mind so that you no longer get confused about the various legal titles being used by law practitioners.