“Lawyer” and “attorney” are two common terms that generally can be used interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences between them. Keep reading to learn more.
The Difference Between a Lawyer and an Attorney
Let’s take a closer look at the difference between these two widely used words.
On the one hand, a lawyer is a person trained in the law who doesn’t necessarily defend clients in court but may offer legal advice. Any person with a law degree can be called a lawyer.
An attorney (or attorney-at-law), on the other hand, is a person who in addition to holding a law degree also passed the bar exam in the state where they practice law. An attorney can be legally appointed to represent clients and prosecute or defend actions in court.
In fact, the word attorney comes from the French atorner, which means “to assign,” as in assigning someone the task of representing a person in court.
Attorneys Are Always Lawyers, But Not All Lawyers Are Attorneys
So, to summarize, attorneys are always lawyers because they are trained in the law, but not all lawyers are attorneys because they may not actually practice law.
It’s worth remembering that in order to practice as a lawyer in the United States, a person must fulfill a number or requisites that may vary on a state-by-state basis but always include passing a state’s bar examination.
In casual conversation, there’s usually no discernible distinction between “lawyer” and “attorney.” However, in more formal situations (such as a bar examination) this distinction becomes extremely relevant.
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