Attorney vs Lawyer Definitions

Attorney vs Lawyer

Understanding the etymology of both terms can help you understand the distinction between attorney vs lawyer.

Though both terms refer to someone who is educated in law, understanding the technical definitions brings the differences between lawyer vs attorney to light.

The word lawyer has Middle English origins, and refers to someone who is educated and trained in law.

Lawyers are people who have gone to law school and often may have taken and passed the bar exam.

Attorney has French origins, and stems from a word meaning to act on the behalf of others.

The term attorney is an abbreviated form of the formal title ‘attorney at law’.

An attorney is someone who is not only trained and educated in law, but also practices it in court.

A basic definition of an attorney is someone who acts as a practitioner in a court of law.

5 Similar Law Terms

  • Solicitor

Solicitor is a term specific to professionals practicing law in the United Kingdom and other countries.

The term solicitor refers to someone who practices law in a primarily administrative and client-facing setting.

However, solicitors sometimes appear in court, especially lower courts.

  • Barrister

Barrister is another term referring to a legal professional in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.

Unlike solicitors, the primary duties of a barrister include representing clients in court, especially in complex cases.

Barristers must fulfill a specific set of educational and training requirements, including some traditional formalities.

  • Esquire

Esquire, often abbreviated to Esq, is an honorary title generally given to someone who has taken and passed the bar exam and is licensed by their state’s bar association.

The term Esq. or Esquire will often appear on business cards, resumes, or signatures, following the name of someone who has met the necessary requirements.

  • Advocate

The term advocate has different definitions in different countries.

In the United States, the word advocate is often used interchangeably with terms like attorney and lawyer and bears no special legal significance.

  • Counsel

The term legal counsel is a general term for someone who gives legal advice.

Though the term is sometimes used interchangeably with lawyer or attorney, it often specifically refers to someone who is trained in law, and who works in-house for an organization or corporation.


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