If you’re confused about the distinction between an attorney and a lawyer, you’re not alone. Most people are surprised to learn they’re not one and the same. Although the two words generally mean the same thing – and are often used interchangeably – there is a difference.
What Exactly is an Attorney?
In the U.S., anyone who is an attorney is also a lawyer, however, someone who is a lawyer may not have the credentials to be an attorney. What you need to know is that you need a lawyer for legal guidance, but if your case needs to be defended in court, you’ll need the services of an attorney. An attorney of law is able to defend cases and prosecute in a court of law. Basically, an attorney can defend you in court, while a lawyer cannot.
So What Can a Lawyer Do?
The distinction between the two is more of a technicality, and the difference depends entirely on sitting for the bar exam. An education in law isn’t limited to attorneys, but someone can be a trained lawyer all the same. Those who graduate from law school have an excellent degree that can be applied to various sectors other than the practice of law, including government work.
A lawyer is anyone who has completed a law education, regardless if they have passed the bar or are actively practicing law. A lawyer has the knowledge to be able to provide legal counsel; however, they have not passed the bar exam or registered in their State Bar as a practicing lawyer. A lawyer who is not an attorney cannot prosecute or defend your case in court.