Difference Between Lawyer and Attorney: Attorney VS Lawyer. 

Should you choose to specialize in corporate, commercial, or contractual law, you can be referred to as an attorney or a lawyer. People sometimes mess up the terms attorney and lawyer, assuming they have opposite definitions. In the real sense, an attorney is essentially a lawyer, whereas not all lawyers are attorneys.

If that seems too confusing, the only possible distinction between the two is the geographical area where the term is used. Without getting too legal into it, let’s break down the two terms separately. Before explaining the difference between lawyer and attorney, let us give you an overview of who they are.

Who is a Lawyer?

The word lawyer originated from Middle English and referred to a person who is educated in the field of law and gives legal advice and assistance. In addition, the said lawyer can file lawsuits in court and defend clients in a variety of legal matters.

So what qualifications do you need to become a lawyer?

It is technically possible to become a lawyer after graduation from law school. However, in most countries, they are still not yet licensed to practice law or engage in the judicial system.

In the United States, for instance, a person can only practice law after passing the Bar examination. Most lawyers, however, may choose to avoid the bar exam altogether as it is a matter of personal choice.

Image of a lawyer
A lawyer

Key Roles of a Lawyer

A graduate from law school who has not passed the bar exams may not have credence over a lawyer who has. Therefore he/she may help in duties such as:

  • Offer advice on tax issues as a tax lawyer
  • Aid in the formation and maintenance of a corporation as a corporate lawyer
  • Draw up a will, track and secure your property for your future loved ones as an estate lawyer
  • Oversee the prenuptial agreement as well as divorces as a family lawyer
  • Trademark, copyright, and patent your ideas and designs as an intellectual property lawyer
  • Facilitate entry into a foreign country by obtaining citizenships, visas, asylums, or green cards as an immigration lawyer
  • Act as the bridge between employer and employees by drafting job contracts as an employment lawyer.
  • Handle all the above legal issues and offer advice on proper procedures to follow in legal matters as a general practitioner lawyer.

Who is an Attorney?

The term “attorney” derives from the French word “avocat,” which originally meant “a person serving as an agent or deputy for another.”

Therefore, an attorney or attorney-at-law is a person who is trained and authorized to represent a client in court. He or she can work on behalf of the client and plead or defend a case in court.

Image of Attorney
An Attorney

So what qualifications do you need to become an attorney?

Since attorneys-at-law are the real officers of the judiciary, they must take and pass the bar exam.

They are therefore referred to as attorneys-in-law with a document known as the Power of Attorney.

The deed gives these practitioners the legal, economic, and medical authority to make decisions in their clients’ best interests, whether as individuals or as a firm.

Who is an Attorney-in-Fact?

An Attorney-in-fact differs from an Attorney-at-law in that he or she does not have to practice the law.

He or she may be a close family friend or a member of the principal’s family entrusted with a temporary obligation that is covered by a Power of Attorney or Special Power of Attorney. Hence an attorney-in-fact is simply a lawyer with temporary attorney-in-law privileges.

Key Roles of an Attorney

Both an attorney-at-law and an attorney-in-fact share similar roles and may help you with duties such as:

  • Working out a criminal lawsuit filed against someone in court as civic litigation or a trial attorney
  • Presenting a strong case against the IRS or any tax governing body as a tax attorney
  • Contesting, defending a copyright or patent lawsuit as an IP attorney
  • Suing or defending a client against medical malpractice as a medical attorney
  • Defending or representing a client against child custody litigations as a family attorney
  • Negotiating or filing lawsuits for compensation in damages as a personal injury attorney

Lawyer VS Attorney. What’re the Key Differences.

While countries such as the United States use both terms interchangeably, others separate the two in terms of their specialization, education, and licensure.


  Lawyer Attorney
Education ·       May or may not have passed the bar exam

·       A lawyer must have graduated from a recognized law school

·       A lawyer can earn the Juris Doctor degree or Masters of Laws Degree

·       Mandated to take and pass the bar exam

·       An attorney is also mandated to have graduated from a well-established law school

·       An attorney may also partake in the LLM curriculum depending on the institution offering it.

Licensure ·       A lawyer cannot practice law in court as he/she is not recognized by state-specific laws.

·       Some lawyers take up the presumptuous title Esquire without having passed the Bar exams

·       An attorney is licensed by the state to practice law under the judicial system and law courts

·       An attorney may not call himself an esquire since he is well ranked by the Law society of the country

Specialization ·       Lawyers can practice law in various areas of focus and become general practitioners of law ·       Attorneys are likely to assert most of their attention by specializing or undergoing some additional training under one field of law.

Other Confusing Law Terms of Distinction

Legal matters can often get technical and confusing. There are also other different titles just as confusing as a lawyer and an attorney that often overlap. An attorney in different countries is often regarded as a solicitor, while a legal administrator can go by the title of a legal secretary. On the other hand, an advocate goes by the title of a barrister in some countries, while a paralegal is sometimes known as a law clerk.

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