The terms ‘Lawyer’ and ‘Attorney’ are continuously used interchangeably by individuals. However, the two terms refer to differently qualified experts, and as such, need to be clearly understood to avoid confusion. To understand the differences between lawyers and attorneys, there are several factors to know, however, let’s start with their definitions.
What is a Lawyer?
A lawyer is a professional individual who has been educated in law and trained in the intricacies of legal practice. These individuals can provide certain services like offering legal advice, and preparing legal documents, however, their suitability for representing a client in a legal proceeding is limited (if at all allowed), depending upon where the individual is based.
What is an Attorney?
An attorney on the other hand, is a professional who has been educated in law, trained to practice law, and qualified by specific organizations to represent clients in legal proceedings in court. These professionals, like lawyers, can also provide legal advice, draft legal documents, and offer counsel on legal matters. Irrespective of where they are based, attorneys can practice legal representation for clients in the fields of their choice.
Understanding the Differences between Lawyers and Attorneys
Lawyers and attorneys have several points of differentiation, right from educational background to practice range. Although the differences may be subtle, they are significant enough to create a distinction between the two categories of legal professionals. The following are some key differences:
Lawyers: Lawyers are people who have successfully completed their legal education. They may or may not practice law. Additionally, not all lawyers have given or qualified the bar exam.
Attorneys: Attorneys are people who have successfully completed their legal education, passed the bar exam, and are actively practicing law and legal representation in some setting. Depending upon the jurisdiction wherein they are practicing, these individuals may have also qualified additional requirements needed for practicing.
Lawyers: The term lawyer is a wider term which consists of individuals who have completed their legal education and may or may not be qualified for practicing law. This term encompasses every legal graduate including scholars, and consultants. The range of their practice is typically limited to advisory roles.
Attorneys: The term attorney refers only to professionals who are practicing law, with the authorization to represent clients in legal proceedings.
Lawyers: Lawyers typically have multiple specializations. However, they may not always excel equally in all of the fields. The wider range of specializations allow them to be more accessible for a wider range of clients who have issues related to varied areas of law.
Attorneys: Attorneys typically excel in one particular field of law, and that is the one in which they practice. For example, a tax attorney will only excel in tax-laws and would probably not be the ideal choice for a criminal case. If you are seeking specialized knowledge in a particular area of law, or finding legal experts to represent you for the same, it is essential to find a seasoned attorney specializing in that field.
Interactions with Clients
Lawyers: Although lawyers can interact with clients, their interaction will be very limited as the majority of their responsibilities extend only to offering legal advice, and drafting legal documentations. The scope of legal representation (if any) is highly restricted and limited.
Attorneys: Attorneys have a more direct involvement in the client’s case. They offer legal advice and counsel, they help with the drafting of legal documents, and more importantly, they represent the client in proceedings, and help in preparing for courtroom appearances. Their extensive involvement in the case makes them the go-to person for clients throughout the duration of their case.
Advantages That Attorneys Offer
Attorney-Client Privileges: Having a confidential and privileged interaction can only be carried out with an attorney. To ensure that the attorney can most effectively strategize and plan a defense, the client needs to be completely honest about all relevant information, however minor. To protect the rights and interests of the client, these communications are completely protected. This means that the attorney can decide what information to use and how to get favorable results. This makes it simpler for clients to discuss sensitive subjects without fear.
Negotiations: Attorneys, unlike lawyers, have the power to carry out negotiations for any case presented to them. In fact, attorneys are trained to be skilled negotiators, ensuring that for every case, they have to give up the least. Whether it is out of court settlements or arguing favorable terms of sentence for the clients, these skills are very crucial.
Research and Investigations: In order to build a case, the attorneys cannot only rely on the information provided by the clients. They also need to conduct research and investigate the case particulars, for instance, any evidence collected in a criminal case, to come to favorable conclusions. This also gives them a chance to predict prosecution questions and prepare proper defense arguments for the same.
Access to a Network: Attorneys are very well connected with other legal professionals. The availability of this network makes it simpler to leverage specialized knowledge of every minute factor which may affect the case. If one case has certain elements or evidence which pertains to a different area of law, but can potentially be very significant to the case at hand, the attorneys can consult with other attorneys with that particular expertise to understand possible impact.
Strategy Creation: Attorneys are well-versed with the intricacies of the legal procedures. This enables them to effectively plan every step. They can predict how the proceedings would go, what potential issues would be raised, what protocols will be followed during the hearing, and what details will be given particular attention. All this information helps them to create an impactful case in favor of their client.
As must be clear from all the differences above, lawyers and attorneys vary greatly. Although a lawyer may be limited in his scope of practice, for individuals who only need some legal advice, they can be extremely helpful. However, if you need representation, an attorney would be the better choice.