Difference between being a lawyer and an attorney


There is often a great deal of confusion when it comes to the job titles employed by legal professionals and with so many different titles including lawyer, attorney, solicitor and barrister, it is little wonder why this confusion exists.


According to Lawyer EDU, the first use of the term ‘attorney’ was recorded in 1768. A French word meaning someone who acts on behalf of another, an attorney represented clients in a court of law. The term ‘solicitor’ was first used in the USA and referred to someone who was legally trained as a lawyer but only allowed to practice law in a court of equity.

In the USA

Although the two titles are largely interchangeable in the USA, there is a slight difference between a lawyer and an attorney. According to The Law Insider, an attorney, or more correctly an attorney-at-law, is a lawyer. However, a lawyer cannot always claim to be an attorney. A lawyer is someone who has studied and is trained in law but may not actually practice law. An attorney is someone who passed their bar examination in the particular legal area they wished to specialise.

In the UK

The terms lawyer and attorney are not as commonly used in the UK. Here, a solicitor is someone who may conduct litigation but cannot plead cases in a court of law. As pointed out at Dictionary Reference, a solicitor supports a barrister by carrying out different types of legal work in preparation for the barrister’s court appearance. By representing clients referred to them by solicitors, barristers have a different area of expertise when it comes to practicing law.