Who is a lawyer? A lawyer (also called an attorney, counsel, or counselor) is a licensed professional who advises and represents others in legal matters. Today’s lawyer can be young or old, male or female. Nearly one-third of all lawyers are under 35 years old. Almost half of the law students today are women, and women may ultimately be as numerous in the profession as men.

Who Is a Lawyer?
Who Is a Lawyer?

A lawyer can handle all sorts of legal matters, from drafting wills to defending people against criminal charges. Qualified lawyers have to attend law school and pass a bar exam to practice law. A lawyer, of course, is one who practices the law. “Law” itself comes from the Old Norse root word lag, which means something laid down or fixed.

Who Is a Lawyer?

In the United States, the terms lawyer and advocate are often used interchangeably. For this reason, people in and out of the legal field often ask, “Is an attorney and a lawyer the same thing?”. In colloquial speech, the specific requirements necessary to be considered a lawyer or attorney aren’t always considered. Though in everyday speech these terms usually refer to the same person, there are distinctions that law students should be aware of.

Understanding the difference between a lawyer and an attorney is important for anyone interested in earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Whether you are wondering how to become a lawyer or an attorney in court, having the correct definition of each term may help guide your career decisions.

Difference Between a Lawyer And An Attorney

Understanding the etymology of both terms can help you understand the distinction between attorney and lawyer. Though both terms refer to someone who is educated in law, understanding the technical definitions brings the differences between lawyer and 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, have taken and passed the bar exam.

An Attorney has French origins and stems from a word meaning to act on 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.

Though a Lawyer is someone who has completed law school and passed the bar exam, you don’t have to practice law in court to be considered a lawyer. Lawyers may take on roles as consultants or advisors. Many choose to practice in a specialized field such as estate law, immigration law, or tax law, where they may give legal advice to clients.

But as an Attorney, you practice law in court. Passing the bar exam is a requirement for an attorney, giving them the right to practice law in a specific jurisdiction. Like lawyers, attorneys are required to abide by a code of ethics and may practice in both civil and criminal courts.

Other Similar Law Terms

Other terms refer to professionals who are similar to lawyers and attorneys.

  • Solicitor

Solicitors may work for private individuals, businesses, charities, and other entities. They may specialize in property, employment, finance, family, crime, etc. Theirs is mainly a desk job, although they may travel to visit clients and (infrequently) represent them in court.

  • Barrister

In court, you can tell the difference between a barrister and a solicitor immediately. The ones wearing wigs and gowns are barristers, not solicitors. They are given details of a case by a solicitor and then have a certain amount of time to review the evidence and prepare what they are going to say in court (a pleading).

Most barristers are self-employed and work in Chambers with other barristers so they can share costs of accommodation and administrators. They can also be employed in-house as advisors by banks, corporations, and law firms.

  • 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 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 advocate 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 a lawyer or advocate, it often specifically refers to someone who is trained in the law and who works in-house for an organization or corporation.

Types of Lawyers

Animal lawyers specialize in laws and regulations related to animals and may work to protect the welfare of animals, advocate for animal rights, or represent clients in legal disputes involving animals.

Corporate Lawyers

A corporate lawyer works for a company, advising executives against business decisions that could lead to legal action and representing the company when legal action is taken against them. They are also responsible for using their expertise to create and edit corporate contracts to ensure they are not breaking any laws.

  • Criminal Defense Lawyers

Being on the wrong side of the law can be a scary experience. If you are arrested and charged with a crime, you need a criminal defense lawyer to represent you in court. Criminal defense lawyers deal with criminal cases, from DUIs and drug offenses to murder cases. They will work to get the best possible outcome for their client. Additionally, these lawyers often work with detectives and prosecutors to build their cases.

They may also represent clients in appeals proceedings if they are not happy with their original verdict.

  • Family Lawyers

Family lawyers are well-versed in all laws concerning domestic relations and family-related issues. When people think of family lawyers, they usually think about divorce. But there are so many other kinds of lawyers that handle everything from child adoption and surrogacy to child delinquency and domestic violence.

If you want to practice family law, some states will offer you various training options, allowing you to secure certificates in different areas of family law.

  • Animal Lawyers

Animal lawyers specialize in laws and regulations related to animals and may work to protect the welfare of animals, advocate for animal rights, or represent clients in legal disputes involving animals.

  • Environmental Lawyers

With the growing need for preservation initiatives due to global warming, an increasing number of lawyers are specializing in environmental law. The expertise of these legal professionals includes in-depth knowledge of Environmental Protection Agency guidelines and policies. While these are not the types of lawyers that make the most money, most professionals in the field enjoy doing their part to save the planet.

These lawyers work with various government organizations, citizens, and businesses to help them avoid further environmental damage from their actions or pursue justice for the harm that has already been inflicted.

  • Intellectual Property Lawyers

Intellectual property lawyers handle legal matters related to patents, trademarks, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property. They help clients protect their property rights and defend against infringement.

Real Estate Lawyers

Reviewing and preparing documents, ensuring a clear title, and facilitating the funds transfer are all duties of a real estate lawyer. These lawyers can work for the seller of the real estate property or the buyer, so duties may adjust according to the job, but the premise is the same. In this specialty, they focus on real estate transactions and ensure they are handled correctly.

  • Personal Injury Lawyers

There are a few more key professions that we need to cover when trying to answer that fundamental question: what are the different types of lawyers? For starters, personal injury lawyers are primarily focused on civil litigation and representing individuals who sustained an injury either at work or through poor medical practices.

As a personal injury lawyer, you’ll be responsible for collecting evidence, documenting injuries, calculating expenses, and talking with witnesses.

  • Immigration Lawyer

The roles and responsibilities of an immigration lawyer include giving clients legal advice on a range of topics linked to both legal and illegal immigration. He or she aids in completing legal requirements for the issuance of work permits and different visas, such as medical, tourist, and business visas. He or she offers assistance to foreigners who are unsure about their legal Indian citizenship or who need visas to enter the country.

  • Bankruptcy Lawyer

Bankruptcy attorneys specialize in helping their clients use the court system to reduce or eliminate debts, file for bankruptcy, or seek unpaid debts. They can work with individuals or with businesses, representing debtors, creditors, creditors’ committees, or bankruptcy trustees. Bankruptcy attorneys work in and out of the courtroom, either creating debt restructuring plans for debtors to help them relieve debts or trying to extract as much money as possible from debtors on behalf of creditors.

  • Military Lawyer

Literary lawyers, also known as Judge Advocate General (JAG), offer military legal assistance, particularly advice on military law, to the presiding officers of court-martial. The duty of military lawyers in their day-to-day roles is like that of a civilian lawyer. The main distinction is the representation of the client under military tribunals and legislation.

Military officers deal with and can be represented in civil and criminal proceedings solely by military lawyers. JAG officers are equivalent to the rank of lieutenant and are masters in the application of Military Laws, from drafting to presenting the cases before the courts and military tribunals.

  • Medical Malpractice Lawyer

People who hire medical malpractice lawyers have most often suffered a personal injury due to an error made by a medical professional. Any harm caused by inappropriate treatment, negligence, botched surgery, or misdiagnosis falls under the practice of these types of attorneys. A malpractice lawyer can also represent health professionals when charges are brought against them, and they are usually employed directly by the medical facility where said professional works.

  • Government Lawyer

Lawyers working for a branch of the US government—local, county, state, or federal – are government lawyers. They usually focus on the legal aspects of the governing domain of the agency they work for. A lawyer in the government’s employ may work on cases that involve wrongful death, harassment, tax, tort law, eminent domain, and many other types of cases.

  • Digital Media and Internet Lawyer

Law professionals dealing with cases related to digital media or internet-related technology are digital media and internet lawyers. These lawyers mainly handle litigation related to copyright, piracy, internet privacy, protecting children from online predators, and drafting terms and conditions pages for websites.

  • Worker’s Compensation Lawyer

There are many dangerous jobs out there, and physical injuries and even death are common occurrences in certain lines of work. Among other things, workers’ compensation lawyers deal with the aftermath of workplace incidents. Their primary role is to help injured workers or family members whose loved ones have died due to work accidents get proper closure and monetary compensation.

  • Business Lawyer

Business or corporate lawyers ensure that all operations are conducted within the legal framework of local, state, and federal laws. A business lawyer is involved in everything from liability and intellectual property disputes to mergers and revising all sorts of legal documentation.

  • Constitutional Lawyer

The Constitution is the foundation of our country. It lays out the rights and responsibilities of citizens and government officials. A constitutional lawyer can help you understand your rights as a citizen. They can also help you challenge laws that violate the Constitution. They may also represent clients in court cases and appeals to the Supreme Court.

  • Civil Rights Lawyer

As a civilian, you have certain rights that need protection by law. If someone is violating your rights, you need a civil rights lawyer. Civil rights lawyers specialize in the law relating to civil rights. They can help you file lawsuits against companies or government officials who have violated your rights.

  • Contract Lawyer

Contracts come in all shapes and sizes. job offers, leases, mortgages, car purchases, business deals, and personal loans, and the practice of contract law focuses on ensuring that the parties involved in the contracts honor the commitments detailed inside them. A contract lawyer can not only draft the contract but also represent clients in contract disputes in court if necessary.

  • Tax Lawyer

Tax lawyers understand the ins and outs of tax laws and regulations and work in a variety of settings. These settings can include corporations, law firms, accounting firms, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. Their responsibilities include tax planning, interpreting tax law (and its effects on their clients), and doing a great deal of research.

Due to the complexity of tax laws and how frequently they can change, tax lawyers must closely follow tax law developments, court opinions, and IRS rulings. Some tax lawyers pursue a Master’s in Taxation to further specialize their knowledge and stay up-to-date in their practice.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Lawyer

Lawyers perform many administrative and legal tasks to prepare cases and perform well in court or official proceedings. Their duties and responsibilities often include:

. Preparing all documents required to file cases, including briefs and other court documents

. Working closely with team members to prepare a comprehensive brief on each case that goes to trial

. Scheduling and conducting depositions of witnesses and experts

. Researching legal concepts, case law, judicial opinions, statutes, and regulations

. Proper legal citation and statutory interpretation

. Maintaining accurate case files, notes, and reports

. Negotiating cases to meet the needs of the firm and the client

. Making sure all parties are carrying out their court order sentences and paying the necessary fines

. Writing legal documents such as contracts, lawsuits, deeds, wills, and appeals

. Elect jurors, argue motions, meet with judges, and question witnesses during the course of a trial.

. Represent clients in court or before government agencies.

. Gather evidence to formulate a defense or to initiate legal actions, by such means as interviewing clients and witnesses to ascertain the facts of a case.

. Present and summarise cases to judges and juries.

. Advise clients concerning business transactions, claims of liability, the advisability of prosecuting or defending lawsuits, or legal rights and obligations.

. Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can You Become a Lawyer Online?

Yes, you can become an attorney online with a distance JD program. And how long does it take to become a lawyer if you do all of your coursework and exams remotely? No matter if you attend an ABA-accredited law school online or at a brick-and-mortar university, a graduate program in law should take you three years to complete on a full-time schedule.

  • How Long Does It Take to Become a Lawyer?

It takes about seven years of full-time study to become a lawyer once you’ve graduated from high school. This includes four years of undergraduate study, followed by three years at a law school.


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