Attorney Vs. Lawyer: What Are The Differences Between An Attorney & A Lawyer?

Here in the United States we often use words interchangeably. The words “attorney” and “lawyer” typically fall into this interchangeable category. Most individuals don’t realize there are some differences between being an attorney and being a lawyer. These differences are slight, but they cannot be ignored.

Here’s a quick guide breaking down the differences:

What Is A Lawyer?

In the simplest terms, a lawyer is an individual that has been educated in the law. Any individual who has been educated in law can always be addressed as a lawyer; whether he or she is currently giving legal advice does not matter. In the United States, we refer to someone being educated in the law if he or she has completed law school. This makes the individual a lawyer, but a recent graduate of law school may not be allowed to do a number of legal jobs (like representing clients in court) before he or she has successfully passed the incredibly difficult bar exam. Lawyers take the bar exam in whatever specific legal area they desire to practice in.

What Is An Attorney?

An attorney is also considered a lawyer, while a lawyer is not always an attorney. Attorneys attend and graduate from law school just like lawyers. Attorneys also choose which area of law they want to practice in. The difference is that an attorney must pass the bar exam in his or her desired area of practice to be considered an actual attorney. Once the attorney has passed the bar exam, he or she will be able to perform the task that separates lawyers and attorneys: legally representing clients in court. Where a lawyer may simply interpret the law, an attorney will interpret the law and then apply this knowledge to suit the specific needs of his or her client.

The Big Difference

The main difference between an attorney and a lawyer is that an attorney has successfully passed the bar exam in his or her desired area of practice. A lawyer may be working to pass the bar exam or a lawyer may decide to only give out legal advice, but avoid representing clients.

What On Earth Is An Esquire?

Some individuals practicing law choose to be called “esquire” instead of going by attorney or lawyer. This can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. There is no automatic difference between an “esquire” and an attorney. The title “esquire” was originally created to show distinction and honor for those of high social rank. However, there is no requirement to tack on the title to one’s name. This means you do not need the approval of any legal entity to do so. Thus, the title “esquire” can be controversial due to some individuals tacking it onto their names without obtaining any real qualifications.