Difference Between Attorney and Lawyer

In the world that is constantly pondering over new rules and laws, questioning the grounds of ethics that guide the system of lawmaking and justice, it doesn’t bother to look up at the obvious.

‘Attorney’ and ‘Lawyers’ are two terms that most of the public understands as synonyms of each other. However, is that really the case? We are in an era where being ignorant is not an appreciable thing even if it is the smallest of the things.

Attorney vs Lawyer

The main difference between Attorney and Lawyer is that an ‘attorney’ is an individual who is a part of the legal profession. He/she is responsible for representing a client in court. While a ‘lawyer’ is used for a person who trained in the field of law, they give legal advice and aid. It is a much-used general term. Terms and their definitions are the minute details in the world of law.

Attorney vs Lawyer

For example, interchanging words like ‘shall’ and ‘must’ will change the entire implication of a statement.


Comparison Table Between Attorney and Lawyer (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of comparisonAttorneyLawyer
DefinitionOne who is legally appointed to transact business on another’s behalf.Someone whose job is to give advice to people about the law and speak for them in court.
AppointmentThey are appointed by a legal body.They are hired professionally.
IncomeSince they are legally appointed, their pay is handled by the same body. Most of the time, their pay is fixed. They can be considered salary persons.Being hired plays a crucial role in their income. It differs from case to case. They can demand or negotiate with their clients.
RankAttorneys can be promoted within the legal system.Lawyers outside the legal system, cannot be promoted. In law firms, they can be considered senior lawyers or can get a management position.


Who is an Attorney?

The titles and roles of attorneys are different depending upon the legal system or the justice system of different countries.

For example, in the USA and India, attorneys are divided into barristers, solicitors, and counsel.

The official word of attorney is ‘attorney-at-law.’ They can also practice as lawyers. To become an attorney, one must complete law school and clear a bar exam.

In a lot of countries, attorneys need licenses to practice in different states.

With time, they can work as specialists. For example, one can practice as a patent law specialist or copyright specialist.

Since attorneys are a part of the governing system, they can be considered as seniors to the lawyers. As for the appointment or hiring an attorney, that is done in two ways.

One, they can be appointed by the legal system. Two, you can hire or request (in a court) a specific attorney. In India, such attorneys are called ‘advocates.

Either way, they are bound to represent you.

attorney 1

Who is a Lawyer?

In a general sense, a person with legal knowledge and training and certificate can be considered a lawyer. They are also required to finish law school and clear bar exams.

However, their title doesn’t depend upon their practice period. Whether they are acting as a lawyer or not, they are still called lawyers.

Any person with a law degree can work in fields other than practicing law itself. For example, you can become the legal adviser of a company, or you can work in HR departments where you can handle the management according to the labor laws.

One can handle the legal documentation of a company. This includes tasks like filing any document that needs to be cleared by a governing body.

It is like being an editor of legal documents. This way, the company can be assured of not getting a rejection.


Main Differences Between Attorney and Lawyer

  1. The term ‘attorney’ has a French origin where it meant a person acting for another as an agent or deputy. On the other hand, ‘lawyer’ has Middle English roots.
  2. In some countries, a person with a law degree or lawyer does not necessarily need to take a bar exam. It is a matter of personal choice. On the other hand, it is compulsory for one to clear the bar exam if they wish to become an attorney.
  3. A lawyer may or may not need to present a client in the court. They can work behind the scenes. An attorney, on the other hand, needs to comply with this procedure.
  4. An attorney can be referred to as a lawyer. However, it does not go both ways. Hence, a lawyer cannot be referred to as an attorney.
  5. It can be said that an attorney has more authority than a lawyer.
  6. One of the differences could be taken in the actions of lawyers and attorneys. A lawyer act on the interpretation of the law majorly. While an attorney, in addition to the interpretation, also used its implications.
  7. It can be during an investigation or drafting of a plea.
  8. A fact can be taken up as one of the differences. In civilian cases, a person irrespective of holding a degree in law or not can represent themselves in the court. Hence, acting as a lawyer. Whereas, it is not the same for attorneys. As this practice is only limited to civil cases.
Difference Between Attorney and Lawyer



In countries like the USA, the line of difference between a lawyer and an attorney have become significantly blurred. Lawyers have more professional freedom. Their careers are more flexible.

Whereas, the careers of attorneys are more rigid. Their roles and titles change as they are promoted. However, these individuals are always a part of the legal body.

The associations that guide the society of lawyers and attorneys are different. That is, separate associations look over the two groups. However, both are controlled by higher legal authorities. They can work together or as partners or exchange information.

Key Differences Between Attorney and Lawyer (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between Attorney and Lawyer



  1. https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3201&context=dlj
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Both attorney and lawyer are required when dealing with case, but still you gave good list of differences.

Piyush Yadav
Piyush Yadav
Reply to  RogerJah

Of course yes and thanks for liking the article.

Karen Langdon
Karen Langdon

I am currently acting as an attorney in a case and my aim in life is to get a Law degree and become lawyer

Piyush Yadav
Piyush Yadav
Reply to  Karen Langdon

hey Karen,

All the best to you for your aim in life.

Karen Quinn
Karen Quinn

Hi Piyush
suppose I am in urgent need of hiring a lawyer for my needs, where should I head to?

Piyush Yadav
Piyush Yadav
Reply to  Karen Quinn

Hi Karen
You have two options:
1) Get outside of your home and look round for boards that advertise or display a lawyer for hire. In some countries, lawyers would put a big hoarding of their services in front of their shops and homes too.
2) Use the power of Google search and Google maps to find a lawyer in your area. These days, lawyers also get online reviews on google which makes it easy to choose or drop them based on the reviews of other people.

Powell Williams
Powell Williams

Can I become an attorney and a lawyer at the same time?

Piyush Yadav
Piyush Yadav

The short answer is yes. As long as you comply with the educational and licensing requirements of both professions, you can become both.

Mitchell Bell
Mitchell Bell

My aim is to become a lawyer in life. I came here looking for why do people want to become an attorney.

Piyush Yadav
Piyush Yadav
Reply to  Mitchell Bell

Hi Mitchell,
Yes people looking for this information on attorney vs lawyer should look at the comparison table.


Thanks for the comparison

Piyush Yadav
Piyush Yadav
Reply to  Alok



Hi Piyush,
The comparison table that you have given here has helped me a lot in understanding the difference between the two.