lawyer Vs attorney

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

  1. kbbylily

    kbbylily Senior Member

    france, français
    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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)

    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 (
    This seems to be a term that is more common than patent lawyer, although both are used, as far as I know.

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