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Nugus
09-30-2011, 05:00 AM
Just a quick one. Is there a difference between a lawyer and an attorney in the USA?
A will is read in my WIP and I'm wondering if it would be a lawyer that reads it.
My thinking is that lawyers are like solicitors and attorneys are barristers in England.
Sorry for the silly question - my ignorance knows no bounds.
Cheers.

Kateness
09-30-2011, 05:02 AM
*shrugs*

And I work at a law firm, too. I call the lawyers/attorneys I work for both. They refer to themselves as both.

So I'm curious as well.

Nugus
09-30-2011, 05:06 AM
Ouch. I knew I should have paid more attention to LA Law. Thanks anyway.

PrincessofPersia
09-30-2011, 05:22 AM
Actually, there is a slight difference, despite their interchangeability in normal speech.

A lawyer is someone trained in law, having attended a US law school. However, are limited in the roles they can take. Typically, they may act advisory roles, but they may not act as legal representation.

An attorney, on the other hand, is a lawyer who has taken and passed a state bar exam and have been admitted to practice in their jurisdiction. They may do everything a lawyer can do as well as act as legal representation on behalf of a client.

It's like how every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.

Kateness
09-30-2011, 05:25 AM
So, if I'm understanding you - my lawyers are lawyers everywhere in the country, but only attorneys in those jurisdictions in which they are barred?

PrincessofPersia
09-30-2011, 05:31 AM
According to the ABA and my father (who is an attorney), an attorney is any licensed lawyer.

Soccer Mom
09-30-2011, 06:18 AM
This is the first time I've ever heard of any such distinction. Where are you finding this?

Soccer Mom
09-30-2011, 06:22 AM
All I could find suggested that there was once a difference in the terminology back before courts of law and courts of equity merged, but now the terms are synonyms (http://www.superpages.com/supertips/attorney-lawyer.html). I've been an attorney for 16 years and never heard anyone draw any distinction.

Kateness
09-30-2011, 06:29 AM
Question - do you also refer to yourself as a lawyer or is this a symptom of my disturbingly dysfunctional firm?

benbradley
09-30-2011, 06:49 AM
Question - do you also refer to yourself as a lawyer or is this a symptom of my disturbingly dysfunctional firm?
I have the impression that attorney is a fancier name, and is the preffered name in court and among lawyers attorneys. This would jibe with the attorney-is-a-lawyer-who-has-passed-the-bar thing.

jclarkdawe
09-30-2011, 06:58 AM
I've called myself an attorney, a lawyer, and a few other choice terms. Doesn't seem to make much difference.

People have called me an attorney, a lawyer, and a few other choice terms. Doesn't seem to make much difference.

If you want to get technical, I suppose there's a bit of difference between the two.

But something I've never done, and only know of one attorney who did it in one special circumstance, is read a will. It's a big waste of time. Most of the will is just gobbly-gook, and the properly drawn will is rather long, about three or more pages. Normally you just send out a notice to the beneficiaries with a copy of the will.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Chiquita Banana
09-30-2011, 07:07 AM
I would imagine (assuming PrincessofPersia is right on this one) that virtually all lawyers are also attorneys. Can't imagine going through three years of gruelling law school and then not becoming a lawyer... Of course it's possible to fail the bar, but it varies in difficulty according to state (or at least it did back in the 60s/70s when my dad was a young lawyer) and one would hope that if you can get through law school, you can pass the bar in at least one of our states.

Shadow_Ferret
09-30-2011, 07:13 AM
So, how many lawyers does it take to...

*sees Soccer Mom*

Um, wow. Look at the time! I've gotta go!

Smish
09-30-2011, 08:11 AM
This is the first time I've ever heard of any such distinction. Where are you finding this?


All I could find suggested that there was once a difference in the terminology back before courts of law and courts of equity merged, but now the terms are synonyms (http://www.superpages.com/supertips/attorney-lawyer.html). I've been an attorney for 16 years and never heard anyone draw any distinction.

QFT.


When you graduate from law school, you've earned a J.D. You don't actually become a lawyer/attorney until you're admitted to the bar (i.e. licensed to practice law).

Soccer Mom
09-30-2011, 04:37 PM
*snip* Can't imagine going through three years of gruelling law school and then not becoming a lawyer... *snip*.

I have a good friend who never took the bar. She has an MLS and a JD and works for a major international law library. She probably makes more as a librarian than I do as an attorney, but needed the JD to be qualified for that position.

She does not call herself lawyer or attorney.

jaksen
09-30-2011, 05:27 PM
May I add to this thread, as I think it fits in.

What does 'esquire' mean after a lawyer/attorney's name? (Often abbreviated Esq.) Does that mean anything, or is it simply a way to distinguish a lawyer, say from a doctor or ordinary person?

Say: John Johnson, Esq.

Or is it an antiquated term?

The Grift
09-30-2011, 05:49 PM
In the U.S. there is no longer any real difference between the terms lawyer and attorney. Lately I've been referring to myself more as an attorney when people ask. Not sure why.

Esquire just indicates you can practice law. It's another way we make ourselves feel important. Any U.S. lawyer who can practice law as a member of a bar can put it after their name. Esquire is used all the time, at least in my jurisdictions. It's usually used in formal settings, such as when signing a pleading, or as the name of a solo practitioner.

Not everyone with a J.D. ends up taking or passing a bar. Law school, unfortunately, doesn't really prepare you for the bar, and a minority of J.D.'s move directly onto other jobs that don't actually require you to be licensed to practice law but where a J.D. may be a desired qualification, such as the library example above. Various investment banks will also treat the JD equivalently to an MBA, allowing a new hire to skip the analyst step and go straight to associate. Contract negotiation in certain large corporations is another example. Still others collect the degree as part of a collection, which may include MBA's, MPA's, MA's, MD's, PhD's, etc. Lots of reasons to get a JD, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you want to be a lawyer.

Bufty
09-30-2011, 06:26 PM
I agree Re the 'reading of the Will thingie' - that's Hollywood and out-of date.

I was asked to read a Will once. Many years ago - for a lawyer who never practised, incidentally - and despite my trying to explain that it was mostly administrative clauses for the Executor's guidance, she insisted it was the 'proper thing to do'.

I shrugged, explained to the gathered family - who all had received copies of the Will as appropriate and notification of their bequests - I normally didn't read the Wills because of their technical/administrative content but had been asked to do so by the widow.

I then bored the hell out of her family -and myself - for twenty minutes as I ploughed through several pages of waffle - repetitive and meaningless to all of them.


I've called myself an attorney, a lawyer, and a few other choice terms. Doesn't seem to make much difference.

People have called me an attorney, a lawyer, and a few other choice terms. Doesn't seem to make much difference.

If you want to get technical, I suppose there's a bit of difference between the two.

But something I've never done, and only know of one attorney who did it in one special circumstance, is read a will. It's a big waste of time. Most of the will is just gobbly-gook, and the properly drawn will is rather long, about three or more pages. Normally you just send out a notice to the beneficiaries with a copy of the will.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

WriteKnight
09-30-2011, 06:38 PM
Married to an attorney/lawyer. Uses the term interchangeably. Passed the bar in two different states. Has a good friend who got her JD, and decided the law wasn't what she wanted to do for a living. She does NOT call herself a 'lawyer'. Some US states require you to have a law degree, before you can TAKE the bar exam. Some don't. Passing the bar in one state, does not automatically allow you to practice in all states, though some states grant 'reciprocity' after a time.

Once you 'pass the bar' you are licensed to practice law. The distinction between barrister and solicitor is not formal in the US. The terms "Litigator" and Councillor" are informally used for those distinctions. In other words, someone who is licensed to practice the law, and who goes before a judge in a courtroom to argue a case, will be a 'litigator'. While someone who perhaps practices corporate law , drawing up contracts - or family law wills/estates - will be called a council or simply a lawyer. But there is nothing to prevent someone who has been acting in the capacity of councillor from going before a judge to argue a case - except that they would not be experienced at it.

And to further muddy the waters - some lawyers have 'specialties' that require passing certain aditional boards or exams. For instance, an PATENT ATTORNEY must have a BA in either medicine or engineering before acquiring a law degree - and must pass a patent exam. Some lawyers specialize in Intellectual Property - "IP" attorneys and such. Some focus on entertainment etc. Some specialties require certification, some do not. Depends on the states.

stormie
09-30-2011, 06:55 PM
I've been executrix for three wills within the last ten years in the USA, and never was there a reading. This last will in fact was considered "the will from hell" (meaning a lot of loopholes and different amounts of money to be dispersed and the state Attorney General had to get involved). The attorney (who also calls himself a lawyer, it is interchangeable), sent out letters to all recipients named in the will.

Jake Barnes
09-30-2011, 07:58 PM
My law license says "attorney and counselor at law". I've always wondered what a "counselor at law" was supposed to be.

ironmikezero
09-30-2011, 08:28 PM
FWIW, the overt reading of a will can be made a requirement as an obligatory codicil articulated within the document before any distribution or disbursement of estate resources can be made. Absent the mandatory reading, and at the expiration of a specified time period, the entire estate may be liquidated/donated to a named charity, notwithstanding the objections of any other potential beneficiary.

No reading = no inheritance.

Some folks like to mess with their survivors, and can get pretty creative. That's been the fodder of many a creepy tale.

stormie
09-30-2011, 11:14 PM
FWIW, the overt reading of a will can be made a requirement as an obligatory codicil articulated within the document before any distribution or disbursement of estate resources can be made. Absent the mandatory reading, and at the expiration of a specified time period, the entire estate may be liquidated/donated to a named charity, notwithstanding the objections of any other potential beneficiary.

No reading = no inheritance.

Some folks like to mess with their survivors, and can get pretty creative. That's been the fodder of many a creepy tale.
Interesting.

Chiquita Banana
10-01-2011, 01:05 AM
I have a good friend who never took the bar. She has an MLS and a JD and works for a major international law library. She probably makes more as a librarian than I do as an attorney, but needed the JD to be qualified for that position.

She does not call herself lawyer or attorney.


Ah, well that makes sense since she's still using what she learned in law school.

Guess I was thinking about my sister when she was in med school. A fair few of her classmates had no intention of practicing medicine after graduating - they planned to go work on Wall Street. I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea of working SO hard for something and then not using it at all. Why not just go directly to The Street? Just to put Dr. in front of your name?

As far as the "esquire" title, if I were a lawyer I would totally use it! It's fab. Found out a friend of mine used to be an attorney (or barrister or solicitor or whatever they are in NZ) and asked her if I should call her Vikki Esquire. She said no she prefers "my honorable friend" :)

I really need to stop procrastinating. :)

Smish
10-01-2011, 03:17 AM
May I add to this thread, as I think it fits in.

What does 'esquire' mean after a lawyer/attorney's name? (Often abbreviated Esq.) Does that mean anything, or is it simply a way to distinguish a lawyer, say from a doctor or ordinary person?

Say: John Johnson, Esq.

Or is it an antiquated term?

When addressing an attorney in correspondence or documents, Esq. or Hon. is used.

John Johnson, Esq. or
Hon. John Johnson

Where I used to live, Esq. was common. Where I currently live, it's always Hon.

Either works. :D

The Grift
10-01-2011, 05:04 AM
When addressing an attorney in correspondence or documents, Esq. or Hon. is used.

John Johnson, Esq. or
Hon. John Johnson

Where I used to live, Esq. was common. Where I currently live, it's always Hon.

Either works. :D

Where do you live? Here in the tri-state area, if you are a practicing attorney (Esq.) and call yourself Honorable, but you're not a judge, you're getting disciplined by the bar for impersonating a judge.

If you ARE a judge and can use Honorable, you can't practice law and therefore cannot call yourself Esquire.

Mutually exclusive.

EDIT: Municipal judges can also have a law practice, so in that case I guess it could be either/or.

Smish
10-01-2011, 05:19 AM
Interesting. I'm inclined to believe this must be a regional difference, with my region being the odd-man out (since the area where I used to practice used "Esq.").


I'll continue to use "Hon." as long as I live here. When in Rome... :rolleyes:


I will note that it's only in writing. Attorneys are not addressed as "your honor".

Lehcarjt
10-01-2011, 07:28 AM
I've spent the last 15 years working for law firms in N. Calif. Of the 100 or so lawyer's I've contracted for, only a handful used 'Esq' and even then it was only for the letterhead, etc. as they were sole proprietors. It's possible this is a cultural thing for our part of the US though as innovation and technology are the powerhouses here and terms such as 'esquire' bring up the wrong (dated) image.

Nugus
10-01-2011, 09:48 AM
Interesting thread. I think my question has been answered and then some. But another question has been raised - if a guy has no family or friends (apart from the ones who will inherit off him) and he has millions of dollars, who would read the will? Surely a large fee would entice a lawyer/ attorney to do the job?

jclarkdawe
10-01-2011, 04:26 PM
Interesting thread. I think my question has been answered and then some. But another question has been raised - if a guy has no family or friends (apart from the ones who will inherit off him) and he has millions of dollars, who would read the will? Surely a large fee would entice a lawyer/ attorney to do the job?

I'm sorry I wasn't clearer. Wills can be read, and if the testator wants it, it will be done. But the thing is that it is the exception, not the rule, so you need a good reason for it to happen. The one I knew about was because it was a video will, and the testator thought it would amuse people (it didn't). Bufty's is another good example -- someone not knowing better. And as Iron Mike says, it's a great way for the testator to play with people's heads one last time, i.e., revenge.

Most attorneys will discourage it because most of it is really boring stuff (if you send me a PM with your email address, I can send you the form that provides me with a beginning when I write a will) and it's a waste of money. But I always love clients who say justice is the thing (it isn't and they're not going to get it) and money is no object and have a bank account to support that statement.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

JanDarby
10-12-2011, 03:19 AM
I missed this thread earlier, and the OP's question has been addressed, except someone asked about "counselor at law," and -- showing my age here -- it reminded me that when I started practicing law, the local practice, at least, was for MALE lawyers to have "esq" after their name on legal documents to indicate that they were lawyers, but since women can't be "squires," (esquires), FEMALE lawyers would have "counselor at law" after their names.

I used Esq, anyway.

Xelebes
10-12-2011, 04:32 AM
My law license says "attorney and counselor at law". I've always wondered what a "counselor at law" was supposed to be.

I would assume it means just like solicitor means in the Commonwealth: they counsel people about the law but do not represent them in court. A barrister is a person who represents people in court but does not spend much of his time counselling people about law.

For example, you would get a counsellor/solicitor if you want to sign off a mortgage or have a will read.

Nugus
11-24-2011, 03:15 AM
LucasRowe01, it's ages since I've had a peep at this thread, and despite all the great advice I've been given on here, it's only after your post that I can see the wood from the trees. The character doesn't have to be an attorney/lawyer. Imagine me slapping myself on the forehead in dramatic fashion. I can have some fun now developing a new character.
Making sense? No - doesn't matter, I know what I mean.
Thanks.