The Difference Between a Lawyer and an Attorney
Many people will use the terms “lawyer” and “attorney’ interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. The difference is important to the American Bar Association and to clients who may need specific legal assistance. An easy way to remember the distinction is, “All attorneys are lawyers, but not all lawyers are attorneys.”
What is a Lawyer?
A lawyer is someone who has completed law school in the United States. The natural step after law school is to take the bar exam. If a lawyer fails to take or pass the bar exam, they are still legally a lawyer. However, they may not call themselves an attorney until they pass the bar.
Another interesting distinction is the career path chosen. Most lawyers practice law by drafting and reviewing legal contracts and providing legal advice. However, if a lawyer decides not to become an officer of the court and move onto a different career path, such as becoming a consultant or a government advisor, they can still refer to themselves as a lawyer. Without becoming an officer of the court, a lawyer cannot represent a client in court proceedings. They can assist an attorney in preparing the case, but cannot argue the case themselves.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
You should choose a lawyer when:
- You need to draw up a will (Estate Lawyer)
- You need to draw up a prenup (Family Lawyer)
- You need to set up and maintain a corporation (Corporate Lawyer)
- You need to draw up, review, or understand employee or employer contracts (Employment Lawyer)
- You want to file for a copyright, trademark or patent (Intellectual Property Lawyer)
- You need legal tax advice (Tax Lawyer)
- You need general legal advice (General Practitioner Lawyer)
- You’re dealing with issues around immigration such as green cards, asylum, visas, and citizenship (Immigration Lawyer)
What is an Attorney?
Attorneys are also recognized and referred to as lawyers, but they have more power. An attorney has studied law, passed the bar exam, and practiced law. When an attorney is hired to represent a client in a court case, “attorney-client” privileges are initiated. Unlike a lawyer, an attorney is legally qualified to defend and prosecute actions in court on behalf of their clients.
The word “attorney” derives from the French word “atorner,” meaning to decree, assign, or appoint. This refers to clients choosing an attorney to represent them. As well as defending their clients in court, attorneys can practice making legal decisions based on their client’s wishes. Clients (including individuals and companies) can sign a contract giving over “The Power of Attorney,” where their attorney is allowed to make legal, financial, and medical decisions on their behalf. .
When Should I Hire an Attorney?
You should choose an attorney when you have a legal matter that involves court proceedings, such as:
- You’re engaged in a civil lawsuit (Civic Litigation Attorney)
- You’re engaged in a criminal case (Trial Attorney)
- You want to defend or contest a will or trust in court (Estate Attorney)
- You’re going through a divorce or a child custody case (Family Attorney)
- You’re defending or contesting an immigration issue (Immigration Attorney)
- You’re suing for medical malpractice (Medical Malpractice Attorney)
- You need legal representation in court against the IRS (Tax Attorney)
- You’re defending or contesting an intellectual property matter for copyrights, trademarks, or patents (Intellectual Property Attorney)
- You want to file a lawsuit or negotiate for compensation for damages (Personal Injury Attorney)
Who Should I Hire?
When thinking about who to hire just remember that a lawyer cannot practice in court or have regular clients. You can go to a lawyer for legal advice, but make sure you go to an attorney if you think you’ll need to go to court. If you need help finding a lawyer for your specific case, you can contact us and request a free consultation.