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What is the difference between a lawyer and an attorney?

Are there certain benefits to picking one over the other for criminal court? #criminal-law

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Julie Line’s Answer

Hi Lupita -


As a lawyer and an attorney, I think the terms are used interchangeably nowadays.


I think there might historically be a technical difference (attorney actually admitted to bar) , but that is lost in modern terminology and usage. Many litigators and trial lawyers (who go to court) I have known choose to call themselves "lawyers" instead of "attorneys," maybe because the term "lawyer" sounds more "hands on."


In criminal court, or in any legal matter pick an experienced lawyer or attorney you trust and with whom you are comfortable, however he or she identifies themselves! And many public defenders (working to defend the indigent) are among the finest lawyers or attorneys I have known.

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Desiree’s Answer

In the U.S. the terms are used interchangeably today. Even within criminal law, they are interchangeable.

There is a somewhat old fashion interpretation that a “lawyer” is anyone who graduated from law school (earned a Juris Doctor or "JD"), whereas only an "attorney" is admitted to the Bar and licensed to practice law. Hence, all attorneys are lawyers, but not every lawyer is necessarily an attorney. Practically speaking, this distinction in not widely used --or even understood -- in modern practice.

Note: there is a material difference in both education/credentials and the work performed by Solicitors and Barristers in other countries (UK, Australia, etc.) that is not mirrored in the US legal system (despite its origins in English law). And even then, the distinction is not based on criminal versus civil law.
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