Lawyer vs Attorney: What’s the Difference?


Lawyer vs Attorney

The main distinction is derived from their education. An attorney takes and passes the Bar exams administered by the state’s bar association. A lawyer, however, studies and completes law school and not necessarily takes the bar exam. This means both attorneys and lawyers graduate from law school and permit legal advice, but not all lawyers are skilled to carry out an attorney’s role
. In this article, we will do a deep dive into lawyer vs attorney differences.

Societies have established systems of law to govern people throughout history. The legal industry is a profitable and large industry that is an integral part of our daily lives. It brings about various career paths, and the major ones include a lawyer and an attorney. People have always called a lawyer an attorney as terms are often used interchangeably. They view them as similar careers, but they have differences. The differences are significant to the bar association; hence they have to be used correctly. It is a fact that in a civil case, you are allowed to represent yourself. A study shows that 27 percent of the civil lawsuits were overseen in this manner. Most individuals would rather hire a talented or qualified legal practitioner to conduct or represent them in court because of the higher possibility of winning the case. This article will bring out the difference between a lawyer and an attorney and each career’s roles and give you an insight into who to hire when you need a person to solve legal issues.

Who is a lawyer?

A lawyer is a professional qualified to authorize and practice law as by law degree. The term lawyer differs from area to area. Some jurisdictions consist of two types; solicitors and barristers. A solicitor is a trained lawyer who prepares cases and advises on legal matters, and can represent clients in lower courts. At the same time, a barrister is a skilled legal professional in the high court presentation.

The lawyers are trained to arrange, conduct and either prosecute or defend a court action and grant advice about legal matters that may or may not require court action. They obtain a license by taking and passing the bar exam, but not all lawyers take the bar exam. Once they become members of a bar, they are captivated to obey the code of ethics.

However, once an individual has graduated a law school, they can be regarded as a lawyer even if they are not members of a bar. They can take other jobs like government advisors and still be considered lawyers only that their work does not necessitate representing clients in legal issues. Most lawyers are employed in companies and personal legal stations.

Their duties are:

  • Liaise with their colleagues, clients, judges, and others engaged in the case.
  • Conduct investigation and examination of legal issues.
  • Counsel and constitute clients in courts, in front of government agencies, and on personal legal matters.
  • Order and file legal documents such as contracts, deeds, appeals, wills, and lawsuits.
  • Deliver facts in writing and vocally to their clients or others and debate on behalf of their clients.
  • Construe rulings, laws, and regulations for individuals or businesses.

There are different types of lawyers and may have distinct titles and duties, depending on where they work. 

  • Tax lawyers deal with a variety of tax-related problems for corporations and individuals. They are uniquely equipped to handle legal tax matters such as setting back taxes, halting wage garnishment, undoing property liens and account levies, helping with unfiled taxes, and coming up with compromises with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 
  • Family lawyer comes in handy in many situations. They help in adoption issues, settling child custody, problems with divorce, and guardianship. They help you manage your family affairs by the law, document all the drafting required, and represent your case in court. In addition to that, you make sure that you always have someone to turn to if you or your family face legal issues. 
  • A Criminal lawyer is one you turn to when the one you care about is charged. He or she knows things related to criminal law, including issues of arrest, pleas, arraignment, and bail, and any problems relating to the trial itself. 
  • Security lawyer deals with legal issues deriving from promoting and buying stocks, ensuring that all the disclosure necessities are met. They may also recommend agencies that are inquisitive about the list with inside inventory trade through a preliminary public offering (IPO) or buying shares in another corporation.
  • Contract lawyer deals with legal issues related to contracts. Whether you are not sure if you should not sign a particular contract or something wrong with the contract you had already signed, the contract lawyer helps solve all the issues. 
  • Environmental lawyer attends to problems and regulations that deal with the environment. They focus on environmental rights and laws and work on projects relating to renewable energy, climate change, and sustainability. 

Freshly employed lawyers commence as associates and operate on teams with additional skilled lawyers. Some may collaborate in their firms after a couple of years, which means they become co-owners for the firm. Those who do not proceed may be coerced to leave the firm. After gaining some work training, some go-to exercise their profession themselves or advance to large corporations.

Skills that a Lawyer Should Have:

  • Analytical skills: The legal industry involves the assimilation of an enormous quantity of information than imparting it into something logical and manageable. A lawyer must then have measurable skills to be able to identify the best suitable.
  • People skills: At the end of the day, a lawyer has worked with clients and may have made decisions that affect people’s lives. To fathom the witness’s honesty, they must be persuasive and able to read others.
  • Good communication skills: A lawyer must have the ability to talk and write persuasively, sincerely, and concisely. They should also be precise listeners.
  • Research skills: A lawyer is needed to do thorough research to understand their clients and develop legal strategies.
  • Judgmental skills: To apprehend potential areas of weakness in an argument, a lawyer should consider judgments accurately. They must be able to identify points of weaknesses in the opposing arguments. Also, there will be a lot of instances where a lawyer should make important judgments. 
  • Creativity: A lawyer should think outside the box as a good solution is not also obvious. They should be able to exhibit a great practice of solving problems. 
  • Perseverance: Pursuing a law degree or attending a law school takes several perseverance.

Jobs for a Lawyer:

  • Legal counsel lawyer: This is a lawyer who provides advice and guidance for an organization or a corporation. They help members of an organization in all legal issues and act as legal compliance resources of the house.
  • Legal officer: A lawyer who deals with legal affairs within an organization controls external and internal concerns and affairs. Their roles involve identifying possible risks to the organization, implementing legal documents, undertaking research, and providing legal advice.
  • Lawyer: Deals with providing legal recommendations to clients, including businesses, organizations, and individuals.  

Lawyer’s Salaries

The federal government lawyer earns an average annual wage of $144300, a legal service lawyer earns $123260, a local government lawyer earns $95870, and a state government lawyer earns $89090. A self-hired or legal practitioner with personal practices earns much less than individuals who work for law companies or different commercial enterprise establishment.

Most of the lawyers work full time and others more than 40 hours per week. Those in private practice work additional hours in doing legal research and other legal matters.

Who is an attorney?

The word attorney is a French word that means one who acts for another as a deputy or an agent. An attorney, also known as an attorney-at-law, is a legal profession practitioner who constitutes a client in a court of law when pleading or protecting a case. An attorney graduates from law school (have studied judicial system and law) and passes the bar exam to learn a law license. Unlike lawyers, an attorney must take and skip the bar assessments considering that they are the court’s attested officials. Attorneys are needed to obey the codes of ethics.

They can interpret state and federal laws, apply their knowledge of the law to meet clients’ needs, and keep careful records that outline their interactions with clients and other legal professions.  

In a few circumstances, an attorney may be an attorney-in-fact. This character has permission to take charge on behalf of another individual, typically in business or different reputable transactions. It is a transient responsibility guided under the Attorney’s power or unique power of attorney; therefore, they no longer exercise law. It may be a family member or a trusted close member of the family. 

They are also different types of attorneys-at-law:

  • An immigration attorney aids you in contesting or protecting on an immigration matter.
  • IP attorney deals with contesting or protecting copyright, patent lawsuit, or trademark.
  • A trial attorney is the one you lease when you are involved in a civil lawsuit or a criminal case that has to be tried in court. Also called a Civil Litigation attorney. 
  • Tax attorney attends to matters concerning tax, which is when you need to have a representation against IRS.
  • Medical malpractice attorney sees matters involving being sued for clinical malpractice.
  • The family attorney manages issues regarding divorce proceedings or infant custody litigation.
  • Estate attorneys contest or shield a trust or a will during litigation or court proceeding.
  • Personal Injury attorney negotiates for the right of proper repayment of damages.

Like lawyers, attorneys begin their careers as associates in a law firm. With several years of experience with more qualified attorneys, they advance or skyrocket to becoming partners at the law firm. The experienced attorneys become judges while others join law school faculties.

Continuously meeting deadlines is an attorney’s work resulting in overtime especially for the self-employed ones since they lack partners to rely on. Majority work full time while other work for more than 40 hours per week.

Skills that are Required by an Attorney:

More like a lawyer, an attorney possesses skills that they use in their legal profession. Those skills include:

  • Research skills: the attorney requires to separate and distinguish appertaining information on a case.
  • Nerves of steel: The attorney should remain composed and level-headed at all times if things go wrong in front of an audience in the court of law. They should not be swayed by adversity at all times. 
  • Interpersonal skills: To be able to institute a supportive connection with clients when they are not in good moods, an attorney should bear such skills, especially in the case of a family attorney.
  • Critical thinking skills: An attorney should have sturdy critical thinking and problem-solving skills to situate issues and invent answers, then identify and implement the important ones.
  • Communication skills: This is one of the important skills an attorney should possess. They should be good communicators in both verbal and writing. Active listing is also another skill they are required to have. 

Jobs for an Attorney:

  • Patent attorney: A specialized attorney qualified to represent clients in getting patents and involved in matters and procedures dealing with patent law and practice.
  • Staff attorney: This is an attorney who operates for a law firm or a specified organization as a staff member and is responsible for legal research and support to the law firm’s partners. 
  • Litigation attorney: Also known as litigators representing clients in the process of lawsuits or other means of taking the case to resolve a legal issue through the court.

Attorney’s Salaries:

Attorney’s salary depends on where they work, their own practitioner, or works for a law firm. Self-employed attorneys earn less than those who work at a firm. The median annual salary is $120910.

Many attorneys charge their clients per hour, which does not necessarily mean they earn much since they have expenses to incur like support staff and office expenses.

 The Difference Between an Attorney and a Lawyer

The main distinction is derived from their education. An attorney takes and passes the Bar exams administered by the state’s bar association, which involves knowledge tests questions of state-specific laws and general legal morals. They are formally allowed to practice law and advocate for their clients’ cause, including cases in court on behalf of the clients.

A lawyer, however, studies and completes law school and not necessarily takes the bar exam. This means both attorneys and lawyers graduate from law school and permit legal advice, but not all lawyers are skilled to carry out an attorney’s role. A lawyer is basically an individual who practices law while an attorney manages the business on behalf of another person.

A lawyer may not necessarily act in court and may not have regular clients, but one can seek advice concerning legal issues under their jurisdiction.


The education necessities for a lawyer and an attorney vary from state to state. In a few countries, a university’s undergraduate college department- faculty of law, teaches law. They pursue a bachelor’s or master’s of a law degree. Law is taught at law schools in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In law school, coursework focuses on state and federal law, past cases, and the application of analysis and logic to client’s needs. In England and Wales, to have a right to work and be called a barrister, you have to take a Bar Professional Training course. Law students are allowed in some courts as certified student attorneys after completing their first year of studies and after completing some specific courses in their second and third years. 

In America, law schools are approved and deemed most respectable by American Bar Association. Most schools of law are a part of universities. However, some are impartial institutions. Graduating students are awarded a Juris Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D) and are the only way to practice law. It is a degree that many lawyers and attorneys hold. Most schools offer post-doctoral law degrees for students who advance their research knowledge and credentials in a specified area of law.

It is a requirement to sit for and pass the bar exam, while a lawyer may not have completed this exam. A bar exam is an examination presented by the bar association of a jurisdiction that an attorney should take to be admitted to the bar. This usually takes two days, consisting of multiple choices involving laws, essay questions, and performance tests. Studying in a law school is an essential element in taking the bar exam. Students gain a specific set of skills and knowledge to prepare for and pass the bar exam. 

A class size ought to vary from five college students to five hundred depending on the country, but in the USA, they maintain a small size because the admission and acceptance to law school are constrained and competitive. In developing countries, students pay their tuition by working full or part-time, while in industrialized countries, they have full-time law programs meaning you study the whole time. 

There are several problems facing law schools in developing countries, such as books that fall behind the current state of the law by three decades, amateurish faculty with controversial credentials, and over-dependency on practicing lawyers and judges who take teaching as their part-time hobby.


Attorneys and lawyers have to specialize in areas of law while attending school. These are the fields they specialize in:

  • Bankruptcy law
  • Tax law
  • Civil rights la
  • Environmental law
  • Immigration law
  • Criminal law
  • Real estate law
  • Family law 
  • Labor and employment law
  • Personal injury law
  • General law
  • Corporate and business law
  • Intellectual property law

Law school provides a general view of law areas, but lawyers and attorneys have to go through training and education to gain more skills and knowledge for their future. 


Licensing is a requirement to ensure the continued and overall competence of a practitioner. There are various incompetency and unprofessional misconduct that can harm a client hence the reason for licensing. The state bar association carries out a series of multi-page applications, employment history verification, reference checking, reviews of letters of recommendation, and criminal background investigation to license an individual.

While the candidates are waiting for the bar examination results, they begin filling in an application for a bar association license and forwarding their undergraduate and law school transcripts. The admission committee reviews the applications and indulgently selects qualified candidates for practice. The successful candidates are invited to practice a formal swearing-in procedure before a court. The newly-admitted candidates accept personal identification numbers from the state bar, which are added to their signatures later on, on all court documents or legal proceedings handled in the law practice. 

A formal frame-worthy certificate that manifest admission is awarded to the attorneys. Lawyers are consented to with rights to act on all roles involving their profession when they receive their license. Authority is delegated to the state bar organization to supervise and train licensed attorneys by the highest court. This means that they are also permitted to withdraw or withhold licenses. If the uncertain occurs, an attorney receives a notice of complaint received and is granted enough time to plan for a response, which is done first by writing later on verbally. Contrary decisions can be called upon in a court of law since revoking a license can cost one an employment opportunity. 

Alternatively, an attorney can be sued outside the bar association and compensate for monetary values to the complainant. The court is not allowed to suspend or revoke an attorney’s license. It is the state’s bar association that determines the outcome of the attorney. 

In the conclusion of a lawyer vs attorney differences, an individual with no skills or qualifications on legal matters cannot carry out legal issues on their own because of limited legal knowledge and competencies. In this case, one has to hire a lawyer to help in a conflict or dispute that is needed to be solved. Alternatively, if one needs legal representation, guidance, or advice, an attorney at law can help acquire suitable solutions for your issues.

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Lawyer vs Attorney: What’s the Difference?

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