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What Is The Difference Between A Lawyer And An Attorney?

Restitutionary Damages: What Are They And Why They Matter

When seeking a legal professional, it’s important to note that a lawyer and an attorney serve distinct roles, contrary to common misconception.

Truth be told, there are some key differences between lawyers and attorneys, despite the fact that most people use the terms interchangeably. Understanding the differences between a lawyer and an attorney is vital so you hire the right legal representative for your needs.

Read on to learn more, or contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today online or at 1-516-342-2200 to get started with a free consultation.

What Is A Lawyer?

A lawyer is a graduate of an accredited law school. A law school can only be officially accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). In essence, an accredited law school meets various admission, rigor, and educational requirements.

Any law firm worth your time will hire lawyers with degrees from accredited universities. Aspiring lawyers who earn degrees from nonaccredited universities will likely find it more difficult to acquire employment and won’t be as trusted.

Furthermore, accredited schools ensure that a given lawyer has access to top professors and educational materials. To this end, you can think of accreditation as a distinction between legitimate and trustworthy law schools and illegitimate law schools. Accreditation further ensures that all legitimate lawyers receive similar educations despite bar exam requirements differing between states.

Once a lawyer graduates from an accredited law school, they earn a juris doctor (JD) degree. However, you should note that a legal professional does not necessarily have to have taken the bar exam to be considered a lawyer.

What Is The Origin Of The Word “Lawyer”?

The word lawyer comes from Middle English. It originally meant anyone with a legal education — which isn’t too different from how we use it today!

What Is An Attorney?

An attorney is a legal professional who has graduated from law school and passed their state’s bar examination. The bar exam is an official examination that determines whether a legal professional is knowledgeable and skilled enough to operate as a legal representative in court.

In every state, lawyers have to pass the bar examination, often in addition to a professional responsibility exam, to apply for attorney licensure. Once they have their attorney license, they can officially give legal advice, appear in court, and perform other legal services for their clients.

Passing the bar exam is an important achievement in the field of law, no matter which state in which an attorney is licensed. That’s because the bar exam covers a wide range of different legal topics, including but not limited to:

To summarize, the main difference between a lawyer and an attorney is that a lawyer has graduated from law school, while an attorney has graduated from law school and passed their state’s bar exam. Numerous minor differences might also exist between a lawyer and an attorney, as well.

Both types of professionals can practice law, and both earn a law degree. Since they have both completed law school, they are considered to be highly skilled in legal matters and are capable of reading legal documents or tackling legal issues.

For more on this and related topics, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers now at 1-516-342-2200!

What Is The Origin Of The Word “Attorney”?

The term attorney comes from French, originating from a word meaning “to act on behalf of others.” Attorney is actually an abbreviation of “attorney at law,” one of the most common legal titles in the industry.

In this way, “attorney” means someone who is authorized to be a legal practitioner in a court of law.

What Are The Key Differences Between A Lawyer And An Attorney?

As highlighted in the explanation above, there is a significant difference between lawyers and attorneys. Now, let’s explore the key differences between these legal professionals in more detail.

If you want to know more, or if you’re unsure whether your current legal representative is qualified to help you with your case, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-516-342-2200 or online, and learn how we can fight for you!


Lawyers and attorneys differ in terms of the education they need to complete. As noted above, both lawyers and attorneys have to graduate from law school. In most cases, these legal professionals seek out a degree from an accredited law school, ensuring they can be hired by worthwhile firms and that they learn the education they need to serve their clients properly.

Both legal professionals typically earn juris doctor degrees. Some legal professionals, however, earn LLM or Master of Laws degrees. These are advanced certifications that enable practicing legal professionals to offer their services in many different countries, not just in the U.S.

Aside from that, many aspiring attorneys take extra educational classes to prepare themselves for the bar exam. If they know they want to become attorneys right out of the gate, they may take a specific college program, including those extra classes, so that they can sit for the bar exam in their state of residence immediately prior to or after graduation.

If a legal professional wants to be a lawyer, on the other hand, they may take different classes or may eschew studying for the bar exam after graduating. Naturally, both legal professionals can take concentration or specialization classes in many different areas of law, like tax law, human rights law, etc.


A lawyer is not necessarily a licensed individual, but an attorney is. Attorneys earn their attorney licensure by taking their state’s bar exam, and every state bar exam is administered by the state’s Bar Association.

The bar exam is a little different from traditional college lawyer courses. It focuses on:

  • General legal principles
  • State-specific laws
  • State-specific legal processes, particularly as they pertain to court cases

It takes a long time to study the right materials to pass the bar exam in most cases. Once an aspiring attorney sits for the bar exam, it usually takes two (2) to three (3) days to complete.

Some states allow attorneys to transfer their bar exam scores to other states if they move and wish to practice elsewhere. However, some states also require attorneys to take the local bar exam instead.

To reiterate, an attorney is a legal professional who is licensed and authorized to represent clients in a court of law. A lawyer does not have any licensure to speak of by default. Therefore, while they can provide legal advice and offer other legal services, they cannot represent clients in court and similar legal proceedings.


Lawyers and attorneys can choose to specialize in a distinct area of the law while attending law school. Some of the most common types of lawyers:

  • Personal injury lawyers
  • Corporate or business lawyers
  • Bankruptcy lawyers
  • Civil rights lawyers
  • Labor and employment lawyers
  • Criminal lawyers
  • Real estate lawyers
  • Family lawyers
  • And more

However, it’s important to note a key distinction between attorneys and lawyers: the niche matters a lot more for attorneys. That’s because attorneys usually only consult with clients who have cases that pertain to their chosen field or specialization.

Because lawyers are not licensed, they may offer legal advice or more generalized legal services to a wider range of clients.

For instance, a licensed attorney may specialize in personal injury law, so those are the only types of cases they take. They will probably not accept a case from a client who needs help with a divorce. A lawyer may help with both types of cases depending on the knowledge they have and the reputation they have curated among their client base.

To hear from personal injury attorneys that will fight for you, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today online or at 1-516-342-2200 for a free consultation and so much more!

Job Titles

Attorneys and lawyers also have different titles they can pursue.

Most lawyers pursue titles including but not limited to:

  • Legal consultant
  • Legal advisor

On the other hand, attorneys usually reference their area of specialization in their title. Here, examples can include:

  • Personal injury attorneys
  • Family law attorneys
  • Employment law attorneys
  • Tax law attorneys
  • Corporate law attorneys
  • Immigration attorneys
  • Real estate attorneys

On top of that, attorneys can hold the title “Attorney at Law.” They may also have the title “Esquire” or Esq. Esq is similar to the J.D. title in that it indicates a legal representative has passed law school, but it also indicates that the individual in question has passed their state’s bar exam.

Note that each state has its own requirements for the Esq. and J.D. titles. This is why there is still some confusion among many American citizens regarding the duties and responsibilities of both types of legal professionals.

What Are the Major Differences Between Attorneys, Lawyers, and Counsels?

In your search for the best legal representative, you might also interact with or meet “counsels.” Counsel is not the same position as a lawyer or attorney.

In most cases, counsel is someone trained in the law who works for an organization or corporation as an in-house individual. For example, counsel can provide legal advice to an executive or a brand’s board of directors, but they don’t necessarily have authorization to represent anyone in a court.

If you want to make sure you have the right legal representative for an upcoming court trial, ensure that they are an attorney. Even if they call themselves counsel, that may not be enough.

For a free consultation, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers now at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online today!

Who Should You Contact For Help?

To summarize, every attorney is a lawyer but not every lawyer is an attorney. Given this information, it’s important to ask yourself which type of legal professional you should try to contact.

If you believe you need to sue another individual, and you think that the outcome may eventually result in an arbitration meeting, a court case, or other similar clashes, you should speak to an attorney at the earliest opportunity. An attorney is the only legal professional who is authorized and licensed to represent you in court and to best represent your interests against another party.

That said, if you are in the midst of some other legal struggle and don’t believe that it will likely end in a court case or similar meeting, a skilled lawyer could be perfect for your needs. For example, if you need extra assistance understanding a business law, a knowledgeable lawyer could provide you with the legal counsel you require.

Note: Both types of legal professionals can serve you well.

Still, it’s important to hire the right legal representative at all costs. If you fail to do so, you might accidentally hire the wrong law firm, only to have to backtrack, cancel your contract, and hire a different legal representative later on. This wastes time and money for everyone involved. Don’t risk hiring the wrong lawyer. Instead, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online to hear from a team that will fight for you in and out of court!

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

As you can see, an attorney and a lawyer aren’t interchangeable legal professionals. To this end, you need to hire the right one based on whether you are pursuing a court case that may go to trial or if you require legal representation and advice in areas falling outside the court case context.

But if you’re still unsure which one you need, please contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today. Our knowledgeable lawyers can help you break down the differences between lawyers and attorneys and will connect you with the right legal professional for your situation and needs.

To get started with a free consultation and/or case evaluation, contact us online or call us at 1-516-342-2200 today!

DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this page should be considered legal advice. You should seek the appropriate counsel your situation requires. For more information, call 1-516-342-2200 now!


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