Difference Between Lawyer and Attorney

Attorneys (the correct term, by the way, is attorneys-at-law) are always lawyers, but lawyers may or may not be attorneys.

Practically speaking, most people use both terms without giving thought to the meaning of the words.

Only state bar associations truly care about the proper use of the two terms.

A lawyer is someone who has received an education in law school (e.g. Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Duke, Columbia).

In the United States, it is appropriate to call an individual a lawyer even if this person is not actively practicing his profession.

A lawyer is usually someone fresh out of law school, and has yet to pass the bar examination.

An attorney is somebody who, besides having gone through law school, has also passed the bar examination.

The bar examination is an exam that demonstrates whether the aspiring attorney is ready to practice law in his or her jurisdiction.

As any student of law will tell you, the bar exam (and law school in general) is usually a difficult and stressful experience.

Only about fifty percent of the field are able to pass the exam at any given time.

The website of each individual law school will usually have this information somewhere.

So this is the gist of it:

Lawyers have a theoretical understanding of the law but have yet to pass the test that allows them to get a number of jobs.

Attorneys have already passed the bar examination and are allowed to apply for jobs that require a licensed attorney.

That’s it! Not too difficult, right?


Bachiesichang, King. Bachiesichang Dictionary Of English Errors. Xlibris, 2013. Print.