lawyer Vs attorney

Discussion in 'English Only' started by kbbylily, Jun 7, 2008.

  1. kbbylily

    kbbylily Senior Member

    Paris
    france, français
    Hello,
    I was wondering if there was a difference between lawyer and attorney, or is it two different words for the same thing?
    thanks for your replies
     
  2. Frajola Senior Member

    Braz Portuguese
    Strictly speaking, a lawyer is someone who is trained in the field of law and provides advice on legal matters, whereas an attorney is a professional that is licensed to act on their client's behalf and represent them in court.

    These words have been used interchangeably to mean the same thing, however, especially in the US. Also, you will come across some sets of fixed phrases using either one of those terms, as is the case with 'power of attorney', or 'General Attorney'.

    Hope this helps

    :)
     
  3. kbbylily

    kbbylily Senior Member

    Paris
    france, français
    thanks a lot!
     
  4. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    You really should qualify this, Frajola. In Canada, there is no such creature as an "attorney". This is also the case in England (from which Canadian law is derived). "Lawyers" in Canada are most certainly "licensed" to act on a client's behalf and represent them in Court.

    I am confused at your definition of a "lawyer" as someone who is trained in the law and provides advice on legal matters. Is there any country in the world where a fully trained and practising lawyer isn't a professional licensed to act on their client's behalf?

    Perhaps you're thinking of the difference between barristers (lawyers who go to court) and solicitors (lawyers who don't).
     
  5. una madre Senior Member

    Canada
    Western Canada English
    attorney A

    1 lawyer, attorney
    a professional person authorized to practice law; conducts lawsuits or gives legal advice


    Hi kbbylily,
    The above definition is from WR.com

    In general and to answer your question, the word attorney is most often used in the United States (attorney = lawyer).
     
  6. Alaor Santos Senior Member

    Curitiba, Paraná, Brasil
    Portuguese Brazil
    << Moderator's note: I have combined this thread with another on the same topic. >>

    Hi everyone,

    What is the difference between lawyer and attorney?

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 5, 2015
  7. iskndarbey Senior Member

    Lima, Perú
    US, English
    The meaning is the same. 'Attorney' sounds more formal.
     
  8. Smithy73 Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    They have the same meaning but in the UK the only person who is called an "Attorney" is the "Attorney General". In the UK it is perhaps a bit archaic.
     
  9. e174043

    e174043 Senior Member

    Ankara-Turkey(Türkiye)
    Turkish,Azerbaijani
    lawyer, solicitor, barrister and attorney
    In Britain, lawyers are divided into two types, solicitors and barristers. Solicitors give you advice on legal subjects and discuss your case with you. They can also represent you and argue your case in the lower courts. Barristers give specialist legal advice and can represent you in both higher and lower courts. In America, there is only one type of lawyer, who is sometimes called an attorney.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2010
  10. AmaryllisBunny

    AmaryllisBunny Senior Member

    AmE here goes...

    A lawyer as mentioned before, strictly speaking is "a professional person authorized to practice law; conducts lawsuits or gives legal advice" (una madre).

    However, an attorney is any legal representative for the beneficiary.

    What that means is:
    An attorney at law is certainly a lawyer but acts as his/her client's attorney in a court of law (speaks on their behalf not just giving them advice).

    "'Bernstein deduces that 'a lawyer is an attorney only when he has a client. It may be that desire of lawyers to appear to be making a go of their profession as accounted for their leaning toward the designation attorney.' Theodore M. Bernstein, The careful Writer 60 (1965). Yet this distinction between lawyer and attorney is rarely, if ever observed in practice" (Garner 501).

    The words counsel/counselor exist to mean "'one who gives (legal) advice'" (501).

    An attorney can also be anyone with legal "power of attorney" as by material or verbal contract.
    What this means:
    If you are in the hospital, and lose consciousness, as long as you filled out the correct paperwork so that someone can make decisions on your behalf, that person is effectively an attorney [more specifically, your attorney]. For medical, this is overseen by HIPAA.
    This is known as an attorney in fact.


    Garner's Modern American Usage: The Authority on Grammar, Usage, and Style - Oxford, 2009
    Garner's Dictionary of: Legal Use, Third Edition - Oxford, 2011

    Note: Garner is the authority on Legal Use.
     
  11. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    In a BrE and Commonwealth context, this would be the counsel.

    From Collins Concise:
    Counsels can also be appointed as Queen's Counsels (QCs), a senior position; they are informally known as silks​ because of the silk gowns worn by them.

    The other meaning of attorney in relation to 'power of attorney' is available in BrE.
     
  12. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    In the U.S., we common folk (including newspapers and other news media) use "lawyer" and "attorney" interchangeably for anyone practicing law and admitted to the bar.

    That's not technically precise, but that's the way we do it.

    Language is like that. ;)
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
  13. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 74)
    UK English
    In the UK a lawyer who specialises in patents is called a patent attorney, for which there is a Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (cipa.co.uk).
    This seems to be a term that is more common than patent lawyer, although both are used, as far as I know.
     
  14. kachibi Senior Member

    Chinese
    << Moderator's note: I have combined this thread with another on the same topic. Nat >>

    Question: can anyone use simple sentences to nail down their differences?

    As I checked, "attorney" generally refers to someone who is legally qualified to represent a client; "counsels" refer to those that litigate in courts; "lawyers" refer to those who studied Law but may not be legally qualified to represent a client. So it is an umbrella term.

    In addition, can "attorneys" refer to both solicitors and barristers?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2016
  15. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 74)
    UK English
    If you want to check their use, you should give us simple sentences.
    You should bear in mind that attorney is mainly used in AE. Barrister is a BE term, as far as I know.
    Also counsel do not litigate, but represent their client in court.
     
  16. cando Senior Member

    English - British
    "Attorney" is an exclusively AE term. You will need an AE speaker to tell you what the precise functions are in the American legal system. "Counsel" may have a precise distinction in AE too, but in BrE it is used as a general term for a legal representative in court. In the English system (Scotland has its own distinct legal system) there are "solicitors" and "barristers" who have different functions and responsibilities in the justice system. I think you are right that "lawyer" is an umbrella term for someone qualified in the law in all these English speaking systems. Others may be able to offer more detailed help.
     
  17. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    This is historically complicated. There were numerous kinds of professional who practised law, the main ones being serjeants and barristers (these two pleaded in court), and attorneys and solicitors (these two didn't). The ranks of serjeant and attorney were abolished in England in the late 1800s. This is why we here don't call our lawyers attorneys: because they're not, except patent and trade mark attorneys, which are specialized fields.
     
  18. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    As entangledbank's following post shows, this is not correct.

    Solicitors and barristers do not exist in the US; any licensed lawyer may perform either function at will. It should also be noted that in the US one may be a fully trained lawyer (that is, you went to law school and have a degree from it, which these days is usually a JD), but for a variety of reasons (such as not taking, or failing, the bar exam) not permitted to practice the profession.
     
  19. kachibi Senior Member

    Chinese
    Is my following brief summary correct:

    In Britain: people differentiate a barrister and a solicitor from each other. But they are all called lawyers. In addition, a counsel= a barrister.

    In the US: people don't use "barristers" or "solicitors" as they all are called "attorneys". "Lawyers" are used to refer to those with degrees but for some reason are not practicing the profession. "Counsel" is not used as "attorney" stands for all sub-types.
     
  20. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    Chicago
    English (American)
    "Lawyer" is a general term in American English for anybody in the profession. "Counsel" is also frequently used, but normally within the context of one's representation of a particular client (i.e., we would not say "My son is very successful; he's counsel", but we would say something like "He's outside counsel for Microsoft".)
     
  21. Linkway Senior Member

    British English
    This term "attorney" IS used in the UK, but not in the same way as in America.

    Besides certain specialised types of lawyers in the UK using that title (as ETB has explained), there is a UK government law officer with the title "Attorney General".

    Quote from British government official site: "The Attorney General's Office (AGO) provides legal advice and support to the Attorney General and the Solicitor General (the Law Officers) who give legal advice to government."
    Source: Attorney General's Office - GOV.UK


    Also, the expression "power of attorney" is not uncommon.

    Quote from official government website: "A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that lets you (the ‘donor’) appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf."
    Source: Make, register or end a lasting power of attorney - GOV.UK
     
  22. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    From Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law:

    attorney a person authorized to act on another's behalf; esp:LAWYER

    lawyer one whose profession is to advise clients as to legal rights and obligations and to represent clients in legal proceedings
     
  23. Linkway Senior Member

    British English
    And it's not just the US, England and Wales that use the word "attorney".

    It's used in Australia too (I think in similar wasy as the British).

    And in South Africa, for example, (I think in ways more similar to the US usage):

    Quote:
    Chief Directorate: State Attorney Services
    Functions:
    ...
    * The handling of applications for admission as practicing attorney
    * The regulation and overseeing of the conduct of private attorneys operating under the State Attorney Act.
    ...
    Source: Justice/Branch Structure/CLO
     
  24. kachibi Senior Member

    Chinese
    "Lawyer" is a general term in American English for anybody in the profession. "Counsel" is also frequently used, but normally within the context of one's representation of a particular client (i.e., we would not say "My son is very successful; he's counsel", but we would say something like "He's outside counsel for Microsoft".)


    Thanks for your answer Glenfarclas. I want to ask a follow up question. You say "counsel" is used to refer to those who represent clients. Do you actually mean the "barristers" of the British version i.e. those who argue in the court? And "solicitors" and other lower-rank legal support roles are excluded?
     
  25. pob14 Senior Member

    Central Illinois
    American English
    We don't draw that distinction in the US. Glen is not saying that there is a group of attorneys who are called "counsel," just that it's used in the specific sense of "lawyer who is representing this client." Another example:

    I have to go to court tomorrow; I'm trying to evict my deadbeat tenant.
    Really? Who is your lawyer?
    John Smith.
    And who is the defense counsel?
    Nobody; the tenant is representing himself.
     
  26. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    Barristers are counsel to their client when they're representing them in court, or otherwise acting on their behalf. Solicitors are also counsel to their client if and while they do. Barristers can sit around in their chambers telling stories, or they can make cups of tea, or they can act as counsel for clients. Being counsel is a role they perform, not a rank they have.
     
  27. pob14 Senior Member

    Central Illinois
    American English
    Exactly the phrase I was searching for. Well put, ETB. :thumbsup:
     
  28. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    Maybe others will correct me, but I believe that in Britain those in the legal profession don't appreciate being called lawyers*, they simply don't use the word and prefer to use the specific terms solicitor and barrister.
    * Although it's no big sacrifice considering the money they earn, whatever they're called.
     
  29. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    They accept the term as a generality when referring to all solicitors and barristers, but each will refer to themselves as, and expect to be referred to, as a solicitor or a barrister. These terms sound more respectable than "lawyer" (given how many "lawyer" jokes there are.)
     
  30. kachibi Senior Member

    Chinese
    OK, now I realize that "counsel" refers to a role--representing the client. But verify one more thing: represent the client ONLY IN THE COURT? So, if somebody instructs a solicitor in the solicitor's office, then the solicitor is not yet a "counsel" right?
     
  31. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    No. For example, the head lawyer for a large firm's law department is often called the "General Counsel" for the firm, but he or she may never go into a courtroom. It is very common that if a case against a corporation goes to trial, the corporation may (on the advice of their General Counsel) use a litigating attorney from an outside law firm that specializes in such things.
     
  32. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    But you al would aggree that somebody who is qualified in practising law, who practises law as an employee of a company without necessecarily ever having to represent the company in court. would simply be a lawyer, right?
     
  33. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    He would be whatever he calls himself. He might say "I am senior counsel for Worldwide Widgets", or "I am an attorney for Worldwide Widgets", or "I am a lawyer who works for Worldwide Widgets." All could be true simultaneously -- and it is entirely possible that he never does litigation. Note that in BE this would mean that he was a solicitor rather than a barrister, but neither of these terms is used in American English to describe a person in the legal profession.
     
  34. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    But attorney seems to describe someone who actually represents a client - individual or a company - as far as I have understood it so far. I mean those cases where this is not part of the job description.
     
  35. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    In the case that I gave, the person in question does legal work for his employing company -- which certainly makes him an attorney. Beyond that, though, you will find people who have law licenses that they do not use, and therefore have no clients at all, but who will still say that they are "attorneys". As noted by others, some people in the legal profession simply like the word 'attorney" better than they like the word "lawyer."
     

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