"What is the difference between an attorney and a lawyer?" is a common question among clients and also personal friends. This brief video blog explains the difference between an attorney and a lawyer.
What is the difference between an attorney and a lawyer?
Ever wonder why some people talk about lawyers and other people talk about attorneys?
Is there a difference? Believe it or not, the answer is yes.
Our companion video blog number CLF118 titled “How does one become an attorney?” describes the educational and testing requirements to become a licensed attorney. And it is the license that is the distinction.
The national pass rate for the bar exam, taken after one finishes law school, is around 75%. This means roughly 1 out of every 4 people who graduate with a Juris Doctor or J. D. degree, after 7 years of education following high school education, cannot practice law.
You will never hear the term “Lawyer at Law”, but nearly everyone has heard the term “Attorney at Law.”. The term “Lawyer” means that the person successfully completed law school and earned a Juris Doctor degree.
However, only candidates who successfully pass their state’s bar exam, after receiving their Juris Doctor degree, may call themselves “Attorneys”, which literally means they are licensed to appear and represent others in a court of law as an attorney-at-law.
So all attorneys are lawyers. But only lawyers who pass the bar exam may become attorneys.
To protect the public from confusion, many states regulate who may hold themselves out professionally as “lawyers” and limit the professional use of this term only to licensed attorneys. Some states even prohibit one from using the letters J. D. after their name professionally if they are not licensed attorneys.
And finally, anyone who acts as an attorney and gives legal advice without a law license commits the fraud of “practicing law without a license”, which is also a crime in some jurisdictions.