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What Is the Difference Between a Lawyer and an Attorney?

When talking about the legal profession, many people use the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” interchangeably. And often, even lawyers and attorneys will refer to themselves and their colleagues with either term. But did you know that there is a difference between lawyers and attorneys?

So what is the difference between the two, and how do you know which one you need? Read on to learn more about these two terms and what roles each profession serves.

What Is a Lawyer?

A lawyer is officially defined as anyone who has gone to law school, regardless of whether or not they graduated or passed the bar. But just because someone refers to themselves as a lawyer, rather than an attorney, doesn’t mean that they aren’t licensed to practice law. Many people use the terms interchangeably, and someone who says they’re a lawyer may well have graduated at the top of their class and be licensed to practice in at least one state.

A lawyer may be allowed to give some limited legal advice, but they cannot represent clients in legal matters or try cases in court.

What Is an Attorney?

Officially speaking, an attorney is someone who attended law school, graduated, and has completed all the requirements to become licensed to practice in at least one state. This means that they’ve passed at least one bar exam and that they have met all other professional requirements.

An attorney is licensed to give legal advice, represent clients, and try cases in court in the states in which they’ve been admitted to the bar.

Roles a Lawyer May Fill

You may wonder what jobs a lawyer can use their legal training for if they’re not allowed to represent clients. But many lawyers use their legal expertise to offer advice and guidance, especially to their employers. Most unlicensed lawyers don’t own their own practices, but instead work in the legal departments of other companies.

Often, you can find lawyers in major corporations, helping them avoid legal trouble, draft and edit contracts, and stay in compliance with any regulations their industry has to follow. They may also choose to focus on tax law and take their skills to the financial world, where they can get certified as CPAs.

Roles an Attorney May Fill

Attorneys traditionally fill the roles we typically imagine when we think about a lawyer. They can give individual clients legal advice, file cases in court, represent their clients in a court of law, and help mediate conflicts. But there are a wide variety of subspecialties a lawyer may choose to focus their career on. 

Lawyers may choose to go into:

  • Personal injury law
  • Family law
  • Corporate law
  • Environmental law
  • Patent law
  • Criminal law
  • Immigration law
  • And many more

A lawyer’s day-to-day routines will depend largely on what area of the law they choose to pursue. 

Get the Representation You Need

Although the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” often get used interchangeably, the terms actually have two different official meanings. A lawyer has received formal legal education, but they are not licensed to practice law in any state.

An attorney, on the other hand, has passed at least one bar exam and is allowed to represent clients in court.
When you need an attorney who’s ready to fight for your rights, call The King Firm Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers.

Our award-winning attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for our clients, and we’re ready to go to work in your case, too. Schedule a free consultation today to start getting the representation you need.

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