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Are Lawyers and Attorneys the Same Thing?

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Understanding the Difference Between a Lawyer and an Attorney from a Personal Injury Law Office

After decades of helping all types of clients, our personal injury law office has answered our share of questions about the legal process. One of the questions we hear pretty frequently is, “what is the difference between a lawyer and an attorney?”

Legal professionals have been around in some context for centuries, and are known by various terms around the globe, such as:

  • Solicitor
  • Barrister
  • Esquire
  • Advocate
  • Counsel

Each one of these titles may have slightly different qualifications or duties depending on the country they practice in. Luckily, those of us in the States generally only have to worry about two terms: lawyers and attorneys – so let’s focus on those.

The Origin of the Term “Lawyer”

The word “lawyer” stems from Middle English. The first syllable, lawe (or lah), refers to a rule or regulation, and the second syllable, ierre, describes a person who’s knowledgeable about a subject.

Origin of the term attorney

Even older than the Middle English word lawyer is the Old English word lahwita, which combines the lah from above with wita, a suffix meaning “a wise sage or counsellor”.

Even though these words are from hundreds of years ago, they still accurately describe what lawyers do for people today – use their legal knowledge to help people who aren’t familiar with the legal system. For example, a personal injury law office might advise a person on whether or not an injury case is worth the effort of pursuing given the circumstances surrounding it.

The Origin of the Term “Attorney”

The term “attorney” comes from the French word atorné, which means “to turn over,” in the sense of turning something over to another person. By the thirteenth century, the word had come to refer to a person appointed to represent another in legal matters.

Origin of the term attorney

Centuries later, people still turn their legal issues over to knowledgeable attorneys who are able to use their experience to present their case effectively in court. A client might trust their personal injury lawyer, for instance, to help them clearly express their version of events in the hopes of increasing their chances of a fair judgement.

The Terms Lawyer and Attorney Can Be Used Interchangeably

In the United States, the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” are often used interchangeably, as they mean essentially the same thing in the eyes of the public. But technically, there is a slight distinction between them according to the American Bar Association.

Anyone who’s graduated from law school can technically call themselves a lawyer, but they cannot practice law unless they pass the Bar Exam. To prevent confusion, law school graduates who haven’t passed the bar generally use a title other than “lawyer.” A law school graduate might choose to do any number of things with their law degree:

  • Teach law
  • Settle disputes as an arbitrator
  • Go into politics or law enforcement
  • Law firm administration
  • Give legal advice

An attorney, on the other hand, is a lawyer who has not only graduated from law school, but  also:

  • Has passed the Bar Exam
  • Practices law in court

There are multiple areas of practice that an attorney might specialize in, from injury settlements to employment law.

All of this said, if you’re looking for legal help and need someone to represent you in a legal case, you can search for a lawyer or an attorney, because:

  • All attorneys are also lawyers
  • Lawyers who aren’t attorneys (and therefore can’t represent you) usually use different titles

Blaine and his legal team are attorneys licensed by the Louisiana state bar. That means they can help people seek legal action and even litigate on someone’s behalf in court.

Need a Personal Injury Law Office?

If you’ve been searching the internet for the differences between lawyers and attorneys, there’s a good chance you’re looking for help from a legal professional and want to make sure you contact the right type. Now that you know that “lawyer” and “attorney” are usually interchangeable, you can focus on finding a legal professional who specializes in the type of problem you’re having.

For example, maybe you need a lawyer because you were involved in a car accident, or perhaps you’re struggling to get a fair personal injury settlement from the insurance company after a slip and fall accident. In that case, you’ll want to find an experienced personal injury law office like The Law Offices of Blaine J. Barrilleaux. Please contact us and we’ll be happy to provide a free consultation on your case.

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