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Although the words “lawyer” and “attorney” have many similarities, not all lawyers are attorneys.lawyer vs attorney

While the words “attorney” and “lawyer” are sometimes used interchangeably, they really denote distinct things. Each has different rights and obligations.

Of fact, the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” have many similarities. They both refer to people who have obtained legal education and achieved a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. However, although every attorney is a lawyer, not every lawyer is an attorney.

Attorneys must pass the bar exam, a two- or three-day state-specific exam that assesses a lawyer’s legal knowledge and ability.

Defining the Term “Lawyer

Simply put, a lawyer is someone who has finished a course of legal instruction at a law school, which typically entails three years of full-time study after completing an undergraduate degree.

If a law school graduate does not take or fails the bar test, it does not always follow that they will never be able to use what they learned in law school in the workplace. On the contrary, many individuals with legal degrees work in fields other than law, such as government and business.

However, a lawyer who is not a member of a state bar cannot represent clients in court or other legal processes. If a lawyer does this, despite having a law degree, they may be charged with unauthorised practise of law.

Defining the Term “Attorney”

An attorney has finished the educational requirements for taking a state bar test, passed the exam, and taken the oath of membership in a state bar.

Attorneys are licenced to practise law and have the right to do so. They may be members of more than one state bar, especially if they practise near a state boundary. Attorney specialty differ and may need admission to a distinct bar, such as the patent bar for patent lawyers.

As a member of the state bar, an attorney must also follow the state’s professional conduct standards. These ethical regulations outline how an attorney must conduct their profession, including attorney advertising, keeping client and personal finances separate, attorney-client confidentiality, and maintaining appropriate contact with the client about the status of a case.

Violations of these regulations may result in charges being filed against the attorney by a state ethics board, which may impose a variety of disciplinary sanctions against the practitioner, including reprimand, suspension, or disbarment.

Do the distinctions in how these terminologies are used really matter? Practically speaking, no—though this depends on who you ask.

Most lawyers and attorneys don’t discriminate between the two phrases and use them interchangeably, therefore mixing them up is unlikely to upset a legal professional’s sensibilities.