Difference between lawyer and attorney: education, qualifications, roles, jobs etc

The major difference between lawyer and attorney is that a lawyer is a general term that refers to any person in the legal profession, while an attorney is a term that specifically refers to the person who has been licensed to practice law and can act on behalf of clients.

All attorneys are lawyers but not all lawyers are attorneys.

Now let’s break this down;

Difference between lawyer and attorney

A lawyer is a general term. It represents everyone in the legal profession. Depending on the law of a specific country, it may include, judges magistrates, prosecutors, state attorneys, etc. while Attorneys may also be recognized as lawyers, but the very key element which may distinguish an attorney from other lawyers is the ability to act on behalf of another person.

Who is a lawyer?

The term “lawyer” comes from Middle English and refers to someone who has been educated and trained in the field of law.

A lawyer is a person who holds a special qualification related to law. For example, a Diploma in law, a certificate in law, a Bachelor of Laws, and law school.

A lawyer has knowledge in several legal issues and he/she can provide advice and legal aid but he/she cannot necessarily act on behalf of someone else.

However, In the USA a lawyer also conducts suits in court proceedings and represents clients in various legal instances, the term has expanded to overlap the definition of attorney.

who is an Attorney?

According to dictionary.com the word attorney comes from French meaning ‘one appointed or constituted’ and the word’s original meaning is of a person acting for another as an agent or deputy.

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Attorneys are also recognized as lawyers. But the very key element which may distinguish an attorney from other lawyers is the ability to act on behalf of another person.

Difference between lawyer and attorney according to their roles

A lawyer is someone who has graduated law school and may or may not pass the bar test, but they are not licensed to practice law in court.

Lawyers can provide legal advice but they lack the capacity to represent others.

Attorneys can work as consultants or counsel. Many opt to practice in a particular sector such as corporate law, Human rights law, litigation, or intellectual property law, where they can provide clients with legal assistance.

An attorney can act as a legal representative for their clients in a court of law in this capacity.

An attorney’s other responsibilities include interpreting state and federal laws, applying their legal expertise to their client’s needs, and keeping meticulous records of their dealings with clients and other legal experts.

Attorney vs lawyer- education, and license

Education and license are the core elements that differentiate attorneys and lawyers.

Both lawyers and attorneys have graduated from law school.

Students who complete law school typically receive a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, many lawyers and attorneys have this level of education.

Another education qualification that both lawyers and attorneys may possess is a Master of Laws (LL.M), which is a higher-level credential that grants the person global legitimacy.

While an attorney has taken and passed the bar test, a lawyer may or may not have taken it and even the LLM can never make him an attorney.

After passing the bar exam, a lawyer is licensed to practice law by a state authority thus he becomes an attorney.

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That authority can assist you in determining whether or not a person holds a law license and is authorized to practice in a specific jurisdiction.

Attorney vs lawyer- specialization

Both lawyers and attorneys have a right to choose their areas of specialization. Either way, a lawyer might have a limited choice because he lacks the capacity to act on behalf of another person.

Some common areas of specialization may include; Personal injury law, copyright law, family law, etc.

Attorney vs Lawyer- jobs

Both lawyers and attorneys can choose from a variety of career options.

Generally, the expertise, location, amount of experience, and professional goals might influence their career pathways.

Lawyers can work for businesses, government agencies, nonprofit groups, or education institution-universities and colleges.

The best jobs for lawyers might relate to legal consultants and legal regulatory specialists, he may wish to work as a legal officer to handles all legal matters inside a corporation, including both internal and external concerns.

You may find the latest jobs for lawyers here

As for lawyers, an attorney may also work for businesses, government agencies, nonprofit groups, or education institution-universities and collages, on top of that an attorney may represent his client in court mediations, administrative law proceedings, and arbitrations.

An attorney may grab his job from his area of specialization, he might become a patent attorney, personal injury attorney, car accident attorney, insurance attorney, or generally a litigation attorney.

Attorney vs lawyer-ethics and code of conduct

Both attorneys and lawyers are bound by professional etiquette and code of conduct in the legal profession.

They are all required to discharge their duties with a high level of integrity, respect, honesty, confidentiality, and competence.

The breach of ethics attracts display measures against lawyers.

You may read more about ethical issues when lawyers discharge their duties here

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Other similar terms

Barrister vs solicitor

Barrister is the lawyers who represent clients in open court and may appear at the bar while solicitors are the lawyers who may be permitted to conduct litigation in court but not to plead cases in open court alternatively they just spend most of their time doing other law firms’ work.

Solicitors provide specialist legal advice on contentious and non-contentious work to their clients in a variety of areas of law.

When we will relate this to the USA context, Barrister=attorney, and solicitor=lawyer.

Lawyer vs. advocate

Generally, an advocate is a lawyer who can act on behalf of the other person same as an attorney/barrister while a lawyer represents everyone in legal professions not necessarily capable of acting on behalf of others.

Conclusion

My journey here was to tell you the difference between a lawyer and an attorney. hope you find this post useful. The bottom line is

The words lawyer and attorney are commonly used in the USA. In the UK you may find words like Barristers and solicitors and in other countries, you may find words like lawyer and Advocate

A lawyer is a broad phrase that refers to anyone who works in the legal field, whereas an attorney is a term that refers to someone who practices law on behalf of their clients.

In the USA the term lawyer and attorney may mean the same thing.

In the UK barrister represent clients in open court and may appear at the bar while solicitors spend most of their time doing other law firms’ work.

An advocate is a lawyer who can act on behalf of the other person.

Attorney/Barrister/advocate is similar while solicitor/lawyer are similar too.

Read also

Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of sherianajamii.com. Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Mzumbe University and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law school of Tanzania. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion.

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