It is not uncommon to hear these two words used interchangeably in both everyday conversation and in the news. And most of the time, it doesn’t cause confusion. Most people understand the meaning behind the words without getting caught up in the technicalities. However, there are differences between the two, and it may help to understand the details of those who choose to study the law as their passion.
Training and Practicing
- All attorneys are lawyers, as the word lawyer means someone who has received training regarding the letter of the law.
- A lawyer doesn’t necessarily tell clients what to do, or guide them down a specific path when it comes to their case.
- A lawyer does not necessarily refer to someone who has both taken and passed the bar either, meaning they may be forbidden to use many of their skills until they do.
- Many lawyers attend law school, and then find other roles for themselves. For example, lawyers can be advisors in government or journalists who cover different types of law proceedings. In this way, they’re able to use their knowledge without actually representing someone in court.
What Attorneys Do
- Attorneys are those who have decided to turn the practice of law into their career. In order to be called an attorney, they must have passed the bar and been admitted by their jurisdiction. This means that if a person has passed the bar in Arizona they would be considered an attorney there, but if they moved to Ohio, they would be considered a lawyer. Not only will the attorney know and understand the facts, but they’ll be able to use those facts to build a strategy for each client they work with.
- Attorneys are able to go into a court on behalf of their clients to present evidence and try cases. Another term you may be used to hearing is the word esquire, which the UK uses for anyone with a distinguished career or high position. In the US, it’s only attorneys who adopt this title, but it should be noted this is not necessarily a technical term. Meaning if someone uses the term esquire without actually having passed the bar and become a practicing lawyer, they are unlikely to be convicted for it. The conviction would stem from the actual practice of law if they were unauthorized to do so.
When it comes to idle conversation, you can always use the term lawyer and be correct. You’ll simply want to ensure that the person you hire to represent you in a case is a practicing attorney rather than just someone who was trained in the law.