Legal Info

Attorney Vs Lawyer

Attorney vs. Lawyer

Joshua Julien Brouard

Joshua Julien Brouard

03 July 20234 min read

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Attorney vs Lawyer

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    For most of us, there isn't a difference between a lawyer and an attorney. After all, we all use these words interchangeably. So, what is the difference between lawyers and attorneys anyways? In this article, I'll explore precisely this (and briefly go over some international terms).

    Let's get started on the issue of attorney vs. lawyer!

    What is a lawyer?

    Lawyers like attorneys have gone to law school and obtained a JD degree. This requires extensive studies and typically includes a standard four-year undergraduate degree and three years of law school.

    However, unlike attorneys, they may or may not have passed the bar exam. This means that they may not yet be considered a licensed professional. Passing the bar exam is necessary to be able to:

    • Practice law
    • Provide legal advice
    • Do client representations in court

    Lawyers who have passed the bar exam may work with clients or corporations but don't represent clients in court.

    What jobs do lawyers do?

    Lawyers perform different roles in society. Here are some common careers that people pursue after they've completed law school:

    1. Organizational legal counsel: These lawyers work for corporations and offer management legal counsel and compliance advice. They will likely be responsible for drafting legal documents and evaluating organizational risk. These lawyers provide legal advice as well.
    2. Specializing lawyers: These lawyers will provide general legal services such as giving legal advice, drafting documents, and interpreting laws and regulations about specific niches of law, such as intellectual property law or tax law. A trademark lawyer would also be considered a specialized lawyer.
    3. Non-legal careers: Not all lawyers who complete law school will practice law. This might be due to a loss of interest, a desire to avoid the all too common lawyer burnout, and to pursue other fields of interest. Some jobs of choice may be recruiters, mediators, compliance officers, and human resource managers.

    What is an attorney?

    An attorney is a legal professional with a law degree. Attorneys have passed the bar exam and represent clients in court. Attorney is an abbreviated form of the official title "attorney at law."

    The role of an attorney is very similar to that of a lawyer, except for the type of work generally done.

    What jobs do attorneys do?

    An attorney is a licensed professional that will act as representatives for individuals, groups, and organizations. They may act as defense or offense in legal proceedings in front of the judiciary. Attorneys may have the following roles:

    1. Litigation attorney: these are the attorneys you picture in the movies doing client representations. They're the ones representing clients in civil and criminal cases (however, not nearly as dramatically as on TV). They spend a lot of time researching, doing paperwork, and reviewing past cases.
    2. Staff attorney: these attorneys work for a law firm and form part of a team of attorneys that provide legal services. A staff attorney may work in various areas of law, such as immigration law, intellectual property law, commercial law, environmental law, or even as a personal injury attorney. They also do client representations.
    3. Corporate attorney: Like staff attorneys, corporate attorneys work for a company. However, corporate attorneys work for corporations like Microsoft, Tesla, Apple, and Nokia and represent these businesses instead of clients.

    Other terms for legal professionals

    As you may already know, lawyer and attorney are not the only terms used to describe legal professionals. In the UK, mainly, words such as solicitor and barrister are employed to describe lawyers. A solicitor is a licensed professional who practices law with a primary client focus and client representation in the lower courts of the judiciary.

    Conversely, barristers refer to licensed professionals primarily representing clients in courts and often complex cases.

    You may have also heard of the word advocate. This is used interchangeably with lawyer and attorney and doesn't indicate any unique role. Nearly the same could be said of the term legal counsel. However, this is more specifically focused on those who work in-house for a company.

    Attorney vs. lawyer: settling the debate

    I hope I've helped you settle this debate once and for all. While attorneys and lawyers perform very similar roles and both practice law, the critical difference is that a lawyer doesn't represent or cannot represent clients in court. In contrast, a vital aspect of an attorney's job is client representations in the judiciary.


    Is an attorney more powerful than a lawyer?

    An attorney isn't more "powerful" than a lawyer. Like lawyers they practice law. The difference is that they have greater expertise in representing clients in court.

    What is the most powerful lawyer position?

    It's not uncommon to see lawyers as inherently "powerful" due to their portrayal in books and movies. To answer the question, however, the most powerful lawyers will typically be the partners and the chief advocate of a law firm.

    Can you be honest with your lawyer?

    You can be honest with your lawyer. Remember that due to attorney-client privilege, anything you say to your attorney will stay between the two of you. Your lawyer may also be able to approach the case from different angles if you provide all the information instead of withholding it.

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    Joshua Julien Brouard

    Joshua Julien Brouard


    Joshua J. Brouard brings a rich and varied background to his writing endeavors. With a bachelor of commerce degree and a major in law, he possesses an affinity for tackling business-related challenges. His first writing position at a startup proved instrumental in cultivating his robust business acumen, given his integral role in steering the company's expansion. Complementing this is his extensive track record of producing content across diverse domains for various digital marketing agencies.