Difference Between Lawyer and Attorney

Difference between lawyer and attorney

A lawyer is a person who has studied and is trained in law. They may or may not have passed the bar exams. But an attorney is someone who has not only studied and passed the bar examination but is also a practitioner in a court of law. 

If you need to hire a legal professional, you’ll first search for the best lawyers. But the results may appear for both attorneys and lawyers because the terms are often used interchangeably. 

Lawyer vs Attorney – Key Differences 

Lawyer vs Attorney
The word layer has a middle English origin  Origin  The term attorney has a French origin
A lawyer is a person who has studied and trained in an accredited law school but may not have passed the bar exams. Definition  An attorney is a person who also has studied and is trained in law but must pass the bar exam. 
Juris Doctor Degree  Esq. (Juris Doctor + bar exams) 
Legal officers, legal counsels, legal consultants Job titles  Representatives of courts of law, legal counselors to companies and individuals, litigation attorneys, patent attorneys, etc.

What is a Lawyer?

The term lawyer is a middle English word that means a person with a law education. Lawyers complete their law school and obtain their law degree, but they don’t necessarily have to pass the bar exams.

A universal definition of a lawyer by the American Bar Association is: “A lawyer (also called attorney, counsel or counselor) is a licensed professional who advises and represents others in legal matters.” 

But lawyers who have not passed the bar cannot provide legal advice, practice law in a court, or represent clients in court, which is considered illegal. But unlicensed lawyers can practice under a licensed attorney or in a law firm before appearing for the bar.

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 Difference between lawyer and attorney

What is an Attorney?

The term attorney is a French word, and it originally meant a person who acted as a deputy or agent on others’ behalf. The present meaning of the attorney or attorney-at-law is someone who has passed the bar exams and has a JD degree (Juris Doctor).

The attorney is a more official term for those who can legally practice law in a court, represent clients, provide legal services, and work as consultants for companies or individuals.

Attorneys are bar association members, and they must comply with the codes of ethics and professional conduct to continue practicing in the courts for both criminal and civil cases.

When you hire an attorney to represent your case, you’ll pay attorney fees, which is the cost of what it takes to perform your service on your behalf.

 Difference between lawyer and attorney

Difference Between Lawyer and Attorney

One significant difference is lawyers may or may not appear for the bar exams. Attorneys, on the other hand, must appear and pass the bar to be called so.

The bar exam is organized by the State Bar Associations and contains questions that test the knowledge of individuals regarding state laws, legal principles, etc.

Attorneys own the Esquire or Esq. title, which refers to someone who has completed both law school and has passed the bar examination.

Job Titles

There are different job areas for both lawyers and attorneys. Lawyers often work as legal and regulatory specialists, legal officers, legal counsel lawyers, and legal consultants. They may also work in government/ non-government agencies. While for some jobs, a JD degree is enough, they must pass the bar to work as a legal consultant.

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Attorneys mostly work as legal representatives in a court of law or provide legal counsel to companies or individuals. Other jobs attorneys can take up are- litigation attorney, staff attorney, patent attorney, etc.



Here are a few examples of different types of lawyers.

  • Corporate lawyers
  • Real estate lawyers
  • Immigration lawyers
  • Tax lawyers
  • Employment lawyers


Here are a few examples of different types of attorneys.

  • Trial attorneys
  • Tax attorneys
  • Immigration attorneys

Additional Education

 Even though both lawyers and attorneys must attend law school and have a Juris Doctor degree, they can opt for further studies too.

LLM or Masters of Law is a more advanced program that may work as a critical factor in legal counselors’ fees. Also, this curriculum offers specialization in different fields like- human rights, international law, criminal law, property law, international environmental law, tax law, etc.

Solicitors and Barristers

Even though solicitors and barristers have the same meaning as lawyers and attorneys, these two terms are specific to persons practicing law in the United Kingdom.

Solicitors work mainly in administrative and lower courts, while barristers represent clients in complex cases. To be declared a barrister, one must fulfill specific educational and training requirements.

Lawyer vs. Attorney: Know the Difference

While lawyer and attorney more or less denote the same meaning, some minute particularities set the two apart. The next time you need to hire a lawyer or attorney, ask about their qualifications before going ahead with the legal proceedings.

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Vanessa is passionate about written communication, especially after beginning her career as a middle school English teacher. She’s an experienced content marketer as well. Vanessa loves to analyze, compare, and contrast, which is why she writes for ContrastHub. Besides writing, Vanessa is a wife, mom, entrepreneur, spicy food enthusiast, comedy nerd and lifelong learner.

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