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Difference Between Lawyer and Attorney 

The terms lawyer and attorney are often used interchangeably in the media and in general. If you get in trouble with the law, you are advised that you may hire an attorney or hire a lawyer. So are these just two words for the same thing, or is there a difference between what a lawyer does and what an attorney does?

There is a small difference between the two with regard to what kinds of privileges each has in court and their standing with their state’s respective bar associations — especially if a question of unauthorized practice of law occurs (a major ethical violation for legal professionals).

Lawyer vs. Attorney

The main distinction between a lawyer and an attorney is that an attorney is always a lawyer, but a lawyer isn’t always an attorney. 

While the two words are used synonymously even among legal professionals, when it comes to court particulars, it’s important for a client to understand which kind of legal professional can accomplish what they need before a judge.

A lawyer is a legal professional trained in the law who can offer legal guidance to others. According to this definition, anyone who attended law school could call themselves a lawyer. 

But while law school graduates (or even people trained in the study of U.S. law) may be able to offer legal advice to others, there isn’t much that they can do, legally speaking, until they pass the bar exam and are admitted to practice law in the jurisdiction where they wish to practice. Otherwise, they risk running afoul of their state’s bar association.

Qualifications and Responsibilities of a Lawyer

A lawyer may offer legal guidance to a government representative or advise on policy and lawmaking matters. They may offer their skills in the course of a lawyer’s work duties, including drafting legal documents on behalf of a client. However, a lawyer who is not an attorney cannot actually practice law. For example, they cannot represent a client at trial in a court of law who is facing theft charges.

These individuals may be professionally addressed as lawyers even if they don’t provide legal advice to others. And a lawyer may be working toward the title of attorney. 

For example, consider a law school graduate who already has a job at a law firm and who is studying for the bar exam in their state. They might review documents, draft them, or perform other non-court duties for the firm’s clients while they study for the bar exam and then wait for the exam results.

Qualifications and Responsibilities of an Attorney

An attorney is a lawyer who has passed the bar exam in their jurisdiction of practice and is in good standing with their state bar association. Attorneys provide legal advice to clients and represent them in court. They also develop legal strategies and plan cases for their clients.

Attorneys are legally permitted to stand for and act on behalf of their clients. Instead of simply interpreting the law, which is what a lawyer is permitted to do, attorneys can apply their legal knowledge to advocate for their client’s interests and argue for their rights in court.

What Kind of Representation Do You Need?

If you simply need to draft legal documents or file for bankruptcy, either a lawyer or an attorney can complete those tasks. However, if your legal needs are more complicated — especially if you’ll have to appear in court to address them — you need to be represented by an attorney whose practice area fits your needs. 

Attorneys may focus on a certain area of the law, such as criminal defense, family law, or estate planning. So when you’re facing legal issues, look for a licensed attorney experienced in handling your type of case. 

Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys Today For Help.

For more information please contact our criminal defense law firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys at the nearest location for a free consultation.

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – San Jose Office
1625 The Alameda, Suite 405, San Jose, CA 95126
(408) 217-8818

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – Redwood City Office
600 Allerton St Suite 201G, Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 299-0500

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