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Is an Attorney a Lawyer – What are the differences?

Quite confusing


Since time immemorial, people are using the terms, lawyers, and attorneys interchangeably, often referring to one when clearly they mean the other one. And you cannot blame them, since most regular, non-law people with no inclination to the legal practice and profession use these two terms colloquially to mean one thing when he meant the other. It can be quite hard to differentiate these two terms since most of us grew up knowing that these two are one and the same and can freely be used to mean one when we meant the other one. While at first glance the difference between the two can be quite confusing, there lies a world of difference between them. While both the terms refer to practitioners of the legal practice there are many differences between these two that separate them not only in their dictionary meaning but also its usage. These two terms refer to different persons and learning the difference is important.


The difference between these two terms


As said, there is a world of difference between these two terms, and learning that difference is important not only to the legal profession but also to others to correctly address an attorney or a lawyer. Their differences range from the etymological beginnings or origin of the word itself to the jobs and functions these two can undertake and ultimately to the meaning of the word itself. To fully understand the difference between these two words we need to discuss them separately in the following topics:


· The etymological origin of the two words

· Educational requirements to be called one or the other

· The different jobs and functions they perform


And we would compare these two side-by-side in the end so we can further see the difference between the two.


Etymological origin – Lawyer


The word lawyer has its origins traced back to the Middle English word “Lawe” meaning: A person who interprets the law. A later Middle English word was “Man-of-law”.


Etymological Origin - Attorney


The word attorney has its origins traced back to the French word “atorne” meaning: A person appointed by other people to act on their behalf.



Educational requirements – Lawyer


Lawyers are people who graduated from a law curriculum from a law school. Although lawyers have completed or graduated from a law school they still have not taken and passed the bar yet.


Educational requirements – Attorney


Attorneys are people who aside from graduating from a law school have taken and have passed the bar exam given out by the American Bar Association.


Jobs and functions - Lawyer


Upon completion or graduation from law school, lawyers are already legally able and capable to give legal advice. Lawyers can be employed by businesses and corporations as consultants or advisors. They can also work in real estate law, contract law, finance law, traffic ticket law and others. If you are from Sacramento, and stuck with a traffic ticket case, you can hire an experienced Sacramento traffic ticket attorney to help save you time and money.


Jobs and functions – Attorney


Since attorneys have passed the bar exams set forth by the American Bar Association, attorneys can now represent clients in work. They are now legally mandated by the US Constitution to provide legal representation and legal defense to his or her clients.


An easy way to remember the difference


An easy way to remember the difference is: All of our attorneys are lawyers but not all of our lawyers are attorneys. This is because since both are graduates of a law curriculum from a law school, their main difference is whether they have taken and passed the bar already. Lawyers have not yet taken the bar and attorneys do. Therefore, all attorneys have finished a law curriculum and have taken and passed the bar and lawyers have finished a law curriculum too but have taken the bar yet.


Comparison of the two legal professions


To further drive home the difference between these two terms, we have to compare them in a number of categories such as what legal aid can they provide, job opportunities they have, their possible monthly salary, their work hours in the legal field, and the amount of respect they get.


Can they both give legal advice?


Yes, both lawyers and attorneys are more than capable to provide sound legal advice. In fact, a lawyer's job is to give legal advice to their clients and attorneys carry out that legal advice in the court representing their clients.


Can they both represent me in court?


No, only attorneys are constitutionally mandated to represent and defend clients in court, lawyers are not legally able to do so. Although, lawyers can still work in some capacity in courthouses and still be involved in a case they just are not legally allowed to represent clients in courts.


Who has more job opportunities?


Due to a lawyer's much more wide-ranged type of jobs he can take, lawyers have more job opportunities but attorneys are far too few in number that he or she can confidently secure a job position either in a private law firm or pursue a career in public defense.


Legal professionals, in general, are not exactly your run-off-the-mill professions that are in oversupply. They are often understaffed and lack people so if ever you are in the legal profession it is safe to assume that you can secure a job in any field you choose either you are an attorney or a lawyer.


Who is better paid?


It depends on where the legal professional ended up working. For attorneys, if he or she ended up working in a large, multinational private law firm, he or she can immediately earn top dollars. For lawyers, if he or she ended up working as a top executive in a large corporation, he or she can immediately earn as much as well.


On the other side of the coin, if an attorney worked in a public defender's office, he or she may considerably earn less than their private firm counterparts. For lawyers, if he or she managed to work in an entry-level job for law professionals, he or she will earn less than those already in senior management or executive positions.


Who has better work hours?


Most lawyers work in an office while most attorneys represent clients in courthouses which makes a lawyer's work hours better than an attorney's. Not counting work done after the work hours, lawyers clock out when offices close not like attorneys who have to say in court multiple times in a day.


Due to this, lawyers have better work hours than attorneys. All in all, attorneys spend more time working a case, studying a case, defending their clients in court, and attend any post-trial issues that may arise after the case has been resolved and heard. In fact, attorneys are some of the most overworked professionals and often would put upwards of 80+ hours of work a week. A lawyer, on the other hand, seldom does more work stuff after he has punched out.


Who has more work stuff to do after work hours?


Attorneys do have more work stuff to do even after work hours. An attorney is present in every court proceedings which usually take hours multiple times in a day and still has to do more case studying after a court appearance. Lawyers on the other hand only have to work during work hours, and seldom have to do work stuff after the regular work hours. With all these said, lawyers enjoy more off-work hours that are not leisure for attorneys.


Who is better respected?


Getting into and finishing law school is hard in itself which is enough to warrant enough respect for everyone in the legal profession. But knowing that attorneys are bar passers and are legally able and competent to represent clients in court, attorneys are respected a little bit more than lawyers. But all this should not be a deterrent to respect anyone in the legal field.


Each of these people has worked hard to be where they are right now. They have spent countless hours studying for their pre-law degrees, and even more countless hours studying for their law degree. Attorneys have spent even more countless hours studying for the bar exam. In short, respect everyone, whether he or she is an attorney or a lawyer, for they more than deserve the recognition and respect they are due.


In summary


Lawyers and attorneys are both in the legal field. Attorneys have taken and passed the bar set by American Bar Association and lawyers have not yet passed the bar. Both can give you sound legal advice but only attorneys can represent you in the court legally.


Both professions are in short supply and demand and you can surely find a place to work if you are a lawyer or an attorney. Both are adequately paid enough, but some are paid more than others, it all depends on experience and expertise in their respective fields.


Both are overworked but attorneys are overworked a little bit more. And both are warranted respect. No, scratch that, everyone should be respected regardless of job, seniority, position, wealth, fame, color, or age.


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