Feb 3, 2020

Attorney vs. Lawyer

Historically a lawyer is trained in and can advise you on the law and represent your interests. An attorney is licensed to practice law and argue before a court. The terms are synonymous these days, but the licenses still say "attorney".

In the United States, the practice of law is conditioned upon admission to practice of law, and specifically admission to the bar of a particular state or other territorial jurisdiction.

Attorney at Law is only for lawyers that go to court. All attorneys are lawyers, but not all lawyers are attorneys. Many lawyers never go to court.

Legal Counsel is a person employed by an organization/corporation and works in-house. Legal Counsel will only provide legal advice to their employer. A lawyer is employed by a law firm and is engaged by various clients to provide a range of legal services and advice.

Because a lawyer also conducts suits in court proceedings and represents clients in various legal instances, the term has expanded to overlap the definition of attorney.  Technically one can be a lawyer by graduating law school, even though they are not licensed to practice law.

The J.D. stands for Juris Doctor. However, this is not a doctorate. It is a professional degree.
A JD is the minimum educational level for lawyers and without it, they cannot practice. Degree levels, from basic to most advanced, include: Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (L.L.M.), Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.). It is also not a legal degree, so a holder cannot be called lawyer or attorney. A JD is not called doctor, because it is not a terminal degree, there are others above it. A PhD is a terminal degree, meaning there are no higher degrees available.

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