There is a lot of confusion surrounding the terms “attorney” and “lawyer.” People use them interchangeably, but there are some big differences between the two professions.
It does not help that across the pond, the terms actually mean different things! That’s why I decided to explore the differences and help you decide which career is right for you. Both attorneys and lawyers have important roles in our society, but they specialize in different areas of the law.
So, let’s take a closer look at Attorney vs Lawyer and find out what the key differences are!
- Origin of Lawyers and Attorneys
- What Is A Lawyer?
- What Is An Attorney?
- Attorney vs Lawyer – What Is The Difference?
- How To Become An Attorney
- So, You Decided To Be A Lawyer?
- Attorney vs Lawyer – Final Thoughts
Origin of Lawyers and Attorneys
The word “lawyer” comes from the Old French word “loyer,” meaning “to plead.” The first lawyers were actually court officials who acted as advisors to the king or queen. They helped the monarchs make decisions about legal matters.
Attorneys, on the other hand, are a more recent invention. They first appeared in America in the early 1800s. It stands for “attorney at law,” and it is a legal designation that indicates that the person has taken specific steps to become a lawyer.
What Is A Lawyer?
A lawyer is someone who has completed their studies at law school. Lawyers can offer legal advice and help with contract negotiations; however, they do not practice law in court. They may work for a law firm, or they may choose to go into private practice.
What Is An Attorney?
An attorney is a licensed professional who represents clients in court proceedings and gives legal advice. Attorneys may specialize in a particular area of the law, such as family law, criminal law, or intellectual property law. They may also choose to specialize in a particular type of case, such as personal injury law or bankruptcy law. If you get into trouble and need to be represented, an attorney is who you would call.
Attorney vs Lawyer – What Is The Difference?
The answer is simple: an attorney is a type of lawyer. In other words, all attorneys are lawyers, but not all lawyers are attorneys. So, what does it mean to be an attorney? Let’s take a look…
The main difference between an attorney and a lawyer is that attorneys have gone through additional training. To become an attorney, lawyers must pass the bar exam. This additional training gives attorneys more legal knowledge and experience. As a result, they are better equipped to handle more complex legal cases.
And then there’s a paralegal…
There are many different types of lawyers, but not all of them practice law in court. For example, a paralegal is a lawyer who assists attorneys with their work. They may do research or prepare documents for court, but they cannot represent clients in court.
How To Become An Attorney
To become an attorney, you must first complete a four-year undergraduate degree. After you graduate, you can attend law school. The average law school program lasts three years. Once you have completed your education, you must pass the bar exam to practice law. If you want to stop before you sit the bar exam, you can have a career as a lawyer.
Different types of Attorneys
There are many different types of attorneys, but some of the most common include:
- Criminal defense attorneys represent clients who have been charged with a crime. They may work for the government or private firms.
- Family law attorneys represent clients in cases involving divorce, child custody, and other family-related matters.
- Corporate lawyers represent businesses in legal matters such as contracts and lawsuits.
- Personal injury lawyers represent clients who have been injured due to the negligence of another person.
Careers as a Lawyer
There are different career paths that you can take as a lawyer. You can work for the government, a private law firm, or a corporation or take career paths such as:
- Paralegal is a lawyer who assists attorneys with their work.
- Law professor is a lawyer who teaches law at a university.
- Legal Analyst is a lawyer who provides commentary on legal news and events.
Transferable Skills Between the Two Professions
Both lawyers and attorneys need to have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They also need to be able to think critically and solve problems. Additionally, both will need to be dedicated to their studies and must be adequate in research and analysis.
Similar Terms and Definitions
Here are more similar terms that can often be confused with attorneys and lawyers:
- A Jurist studies, teaches, or writes about law.
- A Barrister is a type of lawyer who represents clients in court.
- A Solicitor is a type of lawyer who provides legal advice to clients and prepares legal documents.
- A Counselor provides legal advice to clients but cannot represent them in court.
- A Legal Advisor provides legal advice to clients but may or may not be a lawyer.
- A Judge presides over court proceedings.
- A District Attorney is the chief prosecutor in a district or county.
- A Public Defender is a lawyer who represents defendants who cannot afford to hire their own lawyer.
- A Prosecutor is a lawyer who brings criminal charges against someone.
- A Solicitor General is the top lawyer in the United States Department of Justice who represents the United States government in legal matters.
- Bar: This is the organization that regulates lawyers in a particular jurisdiction. To practice law, you must be a member of the bar.
So, You Decided To Be A Lawyer?
Well, no objections here! Check out any legal positions that you might be interested in, such as our Lawyer Job Description, our Corporate Lawyer Job Description, and even our Criminal Lawyer Job Description, along with our Paralegal Job Description and Legal Analyst Job Description.
Next, why not take a look at So You Want to Be a Lawyer: An Ultimate Guide to Getting into & Succeeding in Law School, as well as What Can You Do With a Law Degree?: A Lawyer’s Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law, for further insight into this career.
If you’d like to learn more about the studying experience in law school and if you’re cut out for it, check out my personal favorite, How to Be Sort of Happy in Law School, or how about Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: By Students, for Students, all available online in 2023.
Lastly, perhaps you’d like to know about alternative job ideas with high earnings, for that, we have Careers That Make You Rich, or even the best Jobs That Can Make You A Millionaire, and finally our list of the Best 6 Figure Jobs to explore!
Attorney vs Lawyer – Final Thoughts
The main difference when thinking about a lawyer vs attorney is that an attorney has completed additional education and training.
As a result, they are more capable of handling complex legal cases. There are many different types of lawyers, but not all of them are attorneys. If you are interested in helping people and making a difference in your community, then a career as a lawyer could well be the perfect option!
Good luck in deciding which one you like best!