lawyer, attorney, counselor and advocate

Discussion in 'Legal Terminology' started by Cyberia, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. Cyberia

    Cyberia Senior Member

    Mexico and Montrèal
    Mexican Spanish
    Hi, everyone!
    While reading a book about subjects like people's rights, entitlement programs and a vast array of mass-based assistence programs, either by focalized outreach or by creating new entitlements, I've come to realize some doubts regarding the misunderstanding of various legal-related issues, namely the differences between lawyer, attorney, counselor and advocate. Actually, I found a nice thread on WR named "advocacy", but I'm still trying to settle all this score in order to use them words accurately:

    Lawyer- referes to the career and its practicants overall
    Attorney- it's someone legally representing any cause or that of the accusant
    Counselor- someone who gives counsels or joins up either side in a lawsuit
    Advocate- the person who defends the accused one's cause.

    I guess most differences are related to the rol each one is taking before a judge, is it right?

    I have no studies on this discipline, so this post might sound too blunt or even simplistic, I hope it doesn't disturb anyone at all.
    Thank you!
  2. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    In my experience:
    ''Attorney'' technically is a legal representative, as you say, but often is used interchangeably with ''lawyer.''
    "Counselor'' is mostly a term of address for an attorney in court.
    ''Advocate" is not necessarily a legal term. It means an active supporter or defender, usually of a cause or idea, not a person.
  3. spinach New Member

    California, USA
    I agree with k-in-sc.

    Both "Attorney" and "Lawyer" refer to licensed practitioners of law. They are often used interchangeably. "Attorney", in my opinion, is a slightly more formal term than "Lawyer".

    "Counselor" is a term often used in court for an attorney or legal representative. It is very formal. Be aware, however, that a "Counselor" in a non-legal context can also simply refer to someone who gives advice to another.

    "Advocate" is not necessarily a legal term, but you often hear people call themselves "legal advocates". Someone who is a legal advocate is usually an attorney/lawyer, but again, not necessarily. Like k-in-sc said, advocates tend to refer to people who defend a cause or community of people.
  4. Bigote Blanco Senior Member

    k in sc,

    An "attorney at law" is one who has successfully pased the bar exam and can legally represent a client and provide legal advice.
    A "victims advocate" in the criminal justice system typically represents and actively supports a person through legal proceedings. An "environmental advocate, supports or defends the cause or idea. So, "advocate' needs context support in the form of a descriptive adjective.
    Counselor- also depends on context. A county counselor may have no knowledge or training in legal matters, by is referred to as "Councelor."
    The lawyer I hire to lead my legal matters, in or out of court, is not only my lawyer and my attorney, but also my Chief Counsel and preferred Counselor. I believe they are all quite interchangable depending on context.
  5. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    What's a "county counselor"? Do you mean "county councillor," a member of a county council, a councilman or councilwoman? That has nothing to do with the law (although a lot of them are lawyers).
    You would not be likely to refer to your chief counsel as "Counselor," although the judge or the lawyer for the other side would address him or her that way. It's more of a courtroom term, like "Your Honor" for the judge.
  6. Bigote Blanco Senior Member

    I knew without a diccionary in hand I could get in big trouble trying to second guess one as stubborn as a mule. ;) Yes, it is a common courtroom term that I've had both pleasant and not so pleasant days hearing many times from a Judge, who I also refer to as "Your Honor". But, in the cloudy parts of my mind I thought I remembered a Camp Counselor, who was 15 years old and my fearless leader when I was 10. Neither he nor I knew the slightest about law and lawyers at the time. I believe that "Counselor", may also be a common summer camp term for a group leader-a long way from a courtroom? Back to context again. :)
  7. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    "Counsel" and "council" are homonyms that are frequently confused ;)
    Yes, there are camp counselors, guidance counselors, academic counselors, marriage counselors, adoption counselors, addiction counselors, etc., none of which have much to do with the use of the term in the legal field.
  8. Bigote Blanco Senior Member

    Yep, I knew I never should have...:D;)
  9. RicardoElAbogado Senior Member

    SF Bay Area, California
    American English
    The term attorney, when used to refer to a lawyer, is short for attorney-at-law (which distinguishes a lawyer from an attorney-in-fact).

    The term counselor, I believe, originates from the days when the courts were divided into courts of law and courts of equity. An attorney-at-law appeared in the courts of law on behalf of a client, and a counselor-in-equity appeared in the courts of equity on behalf of a client. Since in most (or all) common law (anglosajón) jurisdictions the courts of law and the courts of equity have been merged, the distinction between attorney and counselor has disappeared.

    It's true that one often hears "counselor" as a term of address. One reason for that is that addressing someone as "lawyer' or "attorney" would be odd and would seem somewhat rude. (In that vein, in some court rooms, it's either "Judge Fulano" or "Your honor," but never "Judge" by itself when a lawyer is addressing the court.)

    But the term "counselor" is more than just a form of address in court. It is also an accepted alternative for lawyer and attorney. Typically the word "counselor" will be followed by "at law" to avoid confusion. I have seen a number of lawyers whose letterhead says "Counselor at Law." My own letterhead and business cards say "Attorney and Counselor at Law."
  10. Sherlockat

    Sherlockat Senior Member

    Castilian (Patagonian)
    Now, I'm getting confused.
    Here, in Australia, it's very common to read in many many legal offices the words "Barrister" and "solicitor" not much "lawyers" or so. Could you please tell us what is the subtle line between the terms described recently? (does it depend on how English countries use such words?). Thanks.
  11. k-in-sc

    k-in-sc Senior Member

    "Barrister" and "solicitor" are not used in this country. The former argues cases in court and the latter doesn't.
    "A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions. They can be contrasted with solicitors — the other class of lawyer in split professions — who have more direct access with clients and who are in general office based. Barristers are rarely hired by clients directly but instead are retained (or instructed) by solicitors to act on behalf of clients. ..."
  12. Sherlockat

    Sherlockat Senior Member

    Castilian (Patagonian)
    clear! Thanks...

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