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What Is the Difference Between a Lawyer and an Attorney?

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If you’re interested in hiring an attorney, you may wonder whether there is any significant difference between a lawyer and an attorney. 

“Lawyer” and “attorney” are often used interchangeably and are typically used to represent the same thing — a person you can hire to represent you in a legal claim. In reality, while the two terms are used to refer to the same person, there are slight variations between the two. All attorneys are lawyers, but not all lawyers are attorneys. 

What Is a Lawyer?

The word “lawyer” has a Middle English origin. It refers to a person that is educated and trained in the law. Usually, a lawyer has gone through law school and completed their legal education. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve taken the bar exam to become a practitioner. 

A lawyer can provide legal advice, but if they are not licensed, they cannot represent clients in court. Some lawyers complete their education but choose other career paths, including consultants or advisors.

What Is an Attorney?

The word “attorney” has French origins. It stems from the word meaning to represent or act on behalf of others. Like a lawyer, an attorney has gone through law school and completed their legal education. However, unlike a lawyer, an attorney has taken and passed the bar and is licensed to practice law.

An attorney can give legal advice and also represent you in court. Because they’re licensed, they can fully practice law and handle every aspect of your legal claim. 

Attorneys can specialize in different areas of the law. For example, a family law attorney would handle cases involving family dynamics, including divorce, child custody, and establishing paternity

J.D. vs. Esq. — What’s the Difference?

Along with lawyer versus attorney, another detail that confuses people is J.D. and Esq. You may notice these letters behind a lawyer’s name and wonder whether they have any significance. While both are important to the practice of law, they have different meanings. 

J.D. stands for juris doctorate. This is the degree lawyers earn upon completing law school. When a lawyer has “J.D.” behind their name, it simply signifies they’ve earned their legal doctorate degree.

On the other hand, Esq. stands for esquire. Once a lawyer has passed the bar exam and been officially sworn in, they are no longer just a “J.D.” but rather an esquire. Therefore, they can attach “Esq.” behind their name to symbolize their status as a licensed, practicing attorney.

Both “Lawyer” and “Attorney” Are Usually Acceptable

Nowadays, people aren’t typically picky about using “lawyer” versus “attorney” or vice versa. For this reason, you’ll hear a licensed attorney referred to as both an attorney and a lawyer. 

As long as you find a licensed legal practitioner to handle your case, you should not run into any issues. 

Lawyer vs. Attorney — Does This Affect My Search for an Attorney to Handle My Case?

If you’re interested in hiring an attorney to take on your legal claim, you’ll likely employ several methods to find the right one. You can ask family and friends for recommendations, but you may also rely on an internet search for answers.

When you hire an attorney at a reputable law firm, you can trust they’re licensed and able to handle your case. Law firms are run by attorneys licensed in your respective state, so you don’t have to worry about running into any potential issues down the line. 

It’s not uncommon for unlicensed lawyers to work under licensed attorneys. However, when it matters most, your attorney can represent your best interests in and out of the courtroom. 

Contact the Georgia Family Law Firm of Bardley McKnight Law Divorce Lawyers for Help Today

For more information, please contact Bardley McKnight Law Divorce Lawyers to schedule a confidential consultation with a divorce lawyer in Douglasville today.

We proudly serve Douglas County and its surrounding areas:

Law Firm of Bardley McKnight Law Divorce Lawyers Offices
12461 Veterans Memorial Hwy, Suite 470
Douglasville, GA 30134

(470) 308-5409

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