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Lawyer vs Attorney: what’s the difference?

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The terms Lawyer and Attorney are often used as a substitute for one another. Although there are many different types of attorneys and lawyers, terms are similar and often interpreted to mean the same in everyday language. However, there is a slight distinction between the two that is important to note.

To understand the difference between a Lawyer vs an Attorney, it is essential to firstly define what a Lawyer and an Attorney is.



What is a lawyer?

A Lawyer is an individual who is educated in law, but they might not actively practice law before a court. For example, an individual might graduate with a Law degree, but might then go on to pursue a career in areas of business and government work as opposed practicing law.

What is an attorney?

An Attorney is an individual who practices in a court of law and is legally qualified to prosecute and defend actions in court on behalf of their client. The first known use of the term attorney-at-law, which is typically abbreviated to attorney, was in 1768. An attorney is considered the correct term for a practising lawyer in jurisdictions, including the United States, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The term’s roots are from the verb ‘to attorn’, which means to transfer one’s rights and obligations to another.  

For more information on the definition of a Lawyer, why not read our more in depth article here.

What’s the difference between a lawyer and an attorney?

Now we have defined what a Lawyer and an Attorney is, what are the main differences between the two?
 
  • The key difference between a Lawyer vs an Attorney is that an Attorney practices law in a court, a Lawyer doesn’t necessarily. As explained above, by graduating in Law, one can be considered a lawyer, but this does not mean that the individual practices law. On the other hand, an Attorney has graduated in law and has also chosen to enter the legal profession. An attorney is always a lawyer, but a lawyer is not necessarily an attorney.
  • Secondly, an Attorney has passed the bar exam. Once an individual has graduated with a law degree and obtained the required qualifications from Law School, a lawyer must then pass the bar exam that is conducted in the specific legal area they wish to practice. It is only then that a lawyer can be called an attorney and is eligible to practice law within a specific jurisdiction.

How to become a good lawyer?

Becoming a lawyer requires diligence, determination and patience as you study for your exams. The requirements to be a lawyer are more about theoretical knowledge than practical, as to become a lawyer you need to graduate law.

See the following articles for more information on advice for Law Students:
 
How to become a good attorney?

Becoming a good attorney is a whole other story. It takes tight theoretical knowledge to become an attorney, however time, experience and networking skills are also essential. The ability to argue a case and understand complex legal documents in a practical scenario are crucial. Unlike being a lawyer, an attorney will be practicing and therefore will need to be:
 
  • Dedication and drive
  • Strategic thinking abilities
  • Strong communication skills
  • Analytical skills
  • People skills

See the following articles for more information on career advice for Attorneys:
 


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