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Attorney Vs. Lawyer – What Are The Differences?

attorney vs. lawyer

There has been a debate about attorney vs. lawyer, with some people getting so badly confused by these terms. In some cases, some people tend to think that a lawyer is an attorney and vice versa. However, that is not the case; some differences exist between these legal professionals

Even though these words are used interchangeably, which seems to be okay, that is not the case. There are some differences between attorney vs. lawyer, which many people do not know but need to know. This is exactly what you are going to find in this text. It is going to provide you with a keen analysis of the differences between an attorney vs. lawyer.

Who Is A Lawyer? 

Who Is A Lawyer

There are better ways to look at the issue of a lawyer vs. attorney, and the best place to start is by definition. But, first, you need to start by understanding what a lawyer is or what people with this title do before looking at the finer details about the same.

A lawyer, by definition, is a person who offers legal advice in case there is any needed. Other than that, a lawyer also conducts suits in courts as well. However, some people only know of lawyers who offer legal information or representation in a court of law.  

It is not the kind of case one seeks representation for; lawyers handle all these cases. The thing about lawyers is that they specialize in various fields. For instance, criminal laws, constitutional lawyers, and many others offer their services in multiple areas. 

Who Is An Attorney?

Who Is An Attorney?

Having looked at who a lawyer is, it is time to also look at and understand an attorney. Attorneys are not such different lawyers by their profession; they actually do the same thing. No wonder people fail to distinguish between an attorney vs. lawyer.  

An attorney, by definition, forms a member of a legal professional whose role is to offer representation in a court of law. The attorney can help you when pleading with your case or even defending yourself in a court of law. The word attorney is derived from a French word, one appointed or one who is constituted. The original meaning of this world is that of a person who is acting on behalf of another person or an agent.

What Are The Differences In Attorney Vs. Lawyer?

The lawyer vs. attorney debate cannot be completed if we don’t distinguish between these two phenomena. So, let’s look at a few factors that can help us differentiate between these two legal professionals. 

Attorney Vs. Lawyer – Difference In Education

You may want to know the educational process or path one takes before one decides to become a lawyer or an attorney. In fact, when comparing an attorney vs lawyer, the process of education is one of the things which are typically brought up in this contention.

The process of becoming a lawyer is not that complicated. All that one needs is to go to a school for four years and obtain an undergraduate degree. Once this degree is received, the lawyer must proceed to a law school to take another three years of training. When done with this education and training, one can now move to be admitted to the bar. 

The educational process is similar to that of a lawyer because this individual will also have to study for seven years to become an attorney. Once the candidate obtains a Juris Doctor degree from the American Bar Association, he can sit for the state bar exam. The Multistate Bar Exam covers constitutional law, civil procedure, criminal procedure, contracts, torts, evidence, and real property. If the student passes the state bar exam, he can practice law as a legal attorney in court. 

Attorney Vs. Lawyer – Difference In Salaries

The other thing that has also been coming out so well and more pronounced in the debate of an attorney vs. lawyer is the salaries these professionals earn. Well, to this there are many factors which go into this issue alone. For instance, the amount of money a lawyer or attorney earns depends on quite several factors.  

For instance, the kind of area they choose to specialize in and the clients they deal with all determine how much money a lawyer or attorney makes at the end of the day. Nonetheless, lawyers and attorneys earn a lot of money at the end of the day. Therefore, one of the debates that have been there in the attorney vs. lawyer has touched mainly on the issue of salary these professionals make.

In the United States, the standard salary of a lawyer starts from $14,000/ year, and it can reach up to $73,604/year. Medical lawyers, intellectual property lawyers, and criminal lawyers earn the most in all fields of law. On the other hand, the average salary of an attorney in the United States is more than a lawyer. Their average annual salary is $90,604, excluding salary benefits and compensations. 

Attorney Vs. Lawyer- Difference In Roles And Responsibilities

If you are trying to differentiate between lawyer vs. attorney, you must understand the difference in their roles and responsibilities. Both lawyers and attorneys are trained in legal practice and have a significant degree in law, but that doesn’t mean they have the same duty towards a client. 

A lawyer must pass law school and give the bar exam, but they don’t need to practice law in court. Lawyers may take on the responsibilities of client advisors or legal consultants even if they don’t have any practical experience of practicing law. Most lawyers choose a specialized area of legal practice like immigration law or estate law where they have to give the right advice to their clients no matter what.

On the contrary, an attorney has to pass law school and give the bar exam, but he also must practice law in court. When an attorney passes the bar exam, it gives them the legal right to practice law under specific jurisdiction. An attorney has to be honest, diligent, loyal, and trustworthy to pass the character fitness requirements before representing a client in court. Both attorneys and lawyers can take on cases of civil and criminal courts as suited to their expertise. 

Other Legal Terminologies 

As you are contemplating between the terms a lawyer vs. attorney, you will also find others who come along this area. For instance, the barrister vs. solicitor, which people tend to confuse so much as well. In the United Kingdom, those professionals who practice law are always divided into barristers. These are people who represent clients in an open court session and might appear at the bar as well.

Solicitors on the other side are allowed to conduct a litigation process in a court of law but are not allowed to plead cases in an open court session. The barrister, in this case, does not deal with clients directly but only does so through a solicitor.

Also, in the legal profession, you are going to come across the terminology counsel. If you are not well informed, you might also not know who these people are or what they do. For example, a solicitor in the UK is an equivalent of a United States attorney at law.

Counsel, in this case, applies to a battery of legal advisers but can also pertain to a single legal advisor and is typically used as a synonym for an advocate. Also, the advice offered by a lawyer is usually referred to as counsel in some cases. For instance, you can go to a lawyer to get legal counsel over a particular issue or matter. 


The confusion about attorney vs. lawyer and the differences between them has been around for way too long now. The text above tries to clear the air on this issue by offering you the information you need on the differences between these professionals. If you need more information on attorney vs. lawyer, you can let us know in the comment section below.

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Sofia Kelly is a passionate blogger. She loves to share her thoughts, ideas and experiences with the world through blogging.

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