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Attorney vs Lawyer: Do They Mean The Same Thing?


In most cases, the terms lawyer and attorney are interchangeably used within the United States. A very little distinction has been made between these two terms. The difficulty of differentiating emanates from the fact that in the United States, no distinction has been made, unlike the other countries. However, there is a slight distinction between an attorney vs lawyer. It is good to understand this difference if you want to get enlightened about the topic. 

What Qualifies a Person as a Lawyer?


A lawyer is an individual that is trained and learned in the field of law. However, these people may not actually be practicing law. Their primary responsibility is to offer legal advice. When a person attends a reputable law school in America, he is considered to be a lawyer.  

Law students have to pass the bar exams in their specific jurisdiction for them to practice law through the provision of legal representation. If not, they have limited opportunities to use the education that they possess in law. 

There are several types of lawyers in the market. In most cases, these professionals are categorized according to their area of specialization. This definition gives you a great basis for looking at attorney vs lawyer. 

Attorney vs. Lawyer: What Qualifies an Individual to be an Attorney?

An attorney at law is normally abbreviated in day-to-day conversations. If you reside in the United States, you should know that an attorney is regarded as the official name for a lawyer. The term attorney-at-law was first used in 1768. 

An attorney-at-law is typically a practitioner in the court of law who is qualified legally to defend or prosecute actions in a court of law on the customer retainer. The word attorney is an English terminology but has a French origin. It means someone acting on behalf of another person as a deputy or agent. 

An attorney does the actual practice of law in the legal court. On the other hand, a lawyer can either do this or not. An attorney should have passed the bar examination and received the approval of practicing law within his or her jurisdiction. 

Even though these two terms normally operate as synonyms, a lawyer isn’t necessarily an attorney but an attorney is a lawyer. It is a good way to understand the difference between a lawyer vs attorney. Most people prefer to use these two terms interchangeably. However, in the American Bar Association, there is a slight distinction between an attorney vs. a lawyer.  

Other Common Distinction Law Terms 

In some common law jurisdictions in the world like Wales and England, there is a much distinction between attorney vs lawyer that is drawn. The areas differentiate between the two areas of law practice as used in the court system. There are others who don’t by the use of terms such as advocates, barristers, and solicitors. In some States, they also distinguish public notaries from attorneys. It is good to understand how these various law terms are used from one state to another. 

Solicitors are lawyers who handle any form of a legal matter. These professionals typically don’t appear in courtrooms but they do prepare the various legal documents and work with customers directly by giving them the advice that they need most. 

The terminology solicitor was historically utilized in the United States. It used to refer to those lawyers with cases in an equity court. At that time, attorneys only handled the cases that were in the courtroom. 

On the other hand, solicitors call upon barristers if the case that they are handling needs them to appear in court. Barristers don’t work with clients directly but they get referrals from solicitors. The good thing about solicitors is that clients often retain them.  

Solicitors normally help barristers with all preparations for the cases outside the courtroom. Therefore, they have a crucial role to play when it comes to various legal matters. Even though this is not the case all the time, the other terminology for barrister is an advocate. It is a term that is utilized in most English-based jurisdictions. It is good to understand how all these terms are used in various places when looking at the attorney vs lawyer debate. One thing that comes out clearly is that their application varies from one place to another. 

Attorney Vs Lawyer: The Professional Title Esquire 

The other term that is normally used in the legal industry is esquire. In most cases, you apply it at the end of the name of the attorney. The main purpose of this term is to deliver an honorary title to the attorney. 

In the same way, we use the abbreviations like Ph.D. or Dr. The term Esquire also signifies a professional title. It originates from England and this title was at some time reserved for males only. It was often used as a term of respect for those people who were in the high social rank. 

Someone can take on the title of Esquire without the approval of various legal entities like the American Bar Association. Therefore, it may tend to be somewhat controversial. Some professionals have added it onto their names without even getting the actual qualifications. 

However, this presents a false perception of the ability that they possess to practice law legally. Therefore, as you encounter this term, it serves well to be cautious and not presumptuous. It can also help you to understand the differences between an attorney vs lawyer. To pursue your career as an attorney or lawyer, you have to choose the right level of education for legal practice.


These are the main differences and similarities of the attorney vs lawyer. However, the definition of these terms can vary from one region to the other. Therefore, you need to explain these two terms depending on the jurisdiction that you are dealing with. There are times when attorney vs lawyer are used interchangeably. However, in most applications of these two terms, they are normally used interchangeably.

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Sofia Kelly is a passionate blogger. She loves to share her thoughts, ideas and experiences with the world through blogging.

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