Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Of Lawyers and Attorneys: The ABA's Point of View

The term "lawyer" and "attorney" are often used interchangeably that this practice has become widely accepted among English speakers. If these words mean the same thing, then why aren't all lawyers called attorneys?

While the general public treats both terms as synonymous, the American Bar Association (ABA) draws a fine line between the two. Even with a minor difference, the ABA treats this detail as a discerning factor in separating the licensed from the unlicensed.

The term "lawyer" refers to anyone who has studied the law but doesn't necessarily practice it. In fact, an entrepreneur with some knowledge of business law may pass himself off as a lawyer but is hardly the go-to guy for legal representation. A lawyer must pass the bar exam to legally practice law and is otherwise limited in giving general legal advice.

On the other hand, the ABA prefers the term "attorney" when referring to a duly licensed lawyer. First coined in 1768, an attorney-at-law is one who has passed the bar exam and met other requirements to practice in his chosen field. When looking for someone to legally represent you in a case, look for an attorney.

The term "lawyer," at any rate, is more encompassing. Attorneys are basically all lawyers (as they know law), but lawyers aren't necessarily attorneys (not all of them are attorneys by profession).

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