Attorney Vs Lawyer: Definition And Fundamental Differences

There are many fulfilling and challenging career paths within the legal industry. Two common paths in this field are that of an attorney and a lawyer. Though they share some similarities, there are several differences between these two careers. In this article, we will discuss the differences between an attorney and a lawyer and provide information about additional legal professions you may be interested in pursuing.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

Attorney vs. lawyer

The major difference between the duties and responsibilities of a lawyer and an advocate is that a lawyer is usually less experienced and may not necessarily represent clients in court. Comparatively, advocates are highly experienced and capable of representing their clients in courts. A lawyer may research cases and give advice to clients on legal matters. Advocates have the additional qualification of passing the AIBE, and hence, lend their service to clients at every stage of a legal process.

Even though ‘lawyer’ is a general term used to refer to a number of job roles in the legal sector, there are subtle differences between specific legal roles that a lawyer can perform. The key distinction between a lawyer and an advocate is the way they use their education. An attorney has taken and passed the bar exam, which means that they personally represent clients in courts and liaise with members of the judiciary. Lawyers who have not passed the bar exam can only assume an advisory role to their clients.

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What is an attorney?

The word attorney is not widely used in the country. It is usually used only to refer to the Attorney-General of India or to refer to a legal clause called the Power of Attorney. In our country, these professionals may be called advocates. An advocate is a law professional who can assist, defend or plead for another individual in a court of law, tribunal or in front of a counsellor. They are also required to pass the AIBE (All India Bar Examination). After passing the exam, they are eligible to represent clients in courts.

Advocates are generally much more experienced than lawyers. Because of their experience and advanced knowledge in legal matters, they may be involved in representing and advising clients. They try their best to bring about a favourable outcome for their clients. Additional duties of an attorney include interpreting laws, applying their knowledge of the law to meet the needs of their clients and keeping careful records that outline their interactions with clients, legal professionals and other invested parties.

What is a lawyer?

The title ‘lawyer’ is more widely used, as compared to the title ‘attorney’. It refers to a person learned in law or licensed to practice law. It is an umbrella term which covers anybody who pursues or practices law. If a person has just completed their legal studies, they can also be called a lawyer. Many other titles like solicitor, barrister and attorneys come under the general term lawyer. All of these roles are considered to be specialists in their respective fields.

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Lawyers have generally less experience as compared to advocates or solicitors. They may be yet to gain the necessary experience to specialise in specific areas of law. They can give legal advice to their clients, but may not be able to represent clients in court. A lawyer can advance into higher positions with experience, upon which their earning potential may also increase.

What are the qualifications required to become a lawyer?

The basic qualification to become a lawyer is an LLB degree. LLB is a 3-year undergraduate program. Candidates who have cleared the 12th standard board exam with a minimum of 50% aggregate marks are eligible to pursue an undergraduate degree from a recognised university. Prominent colleges offering LLB degrees include the National Law School of India University, National Law University, Delhi University Faculty of Law and National University of Advanced Legal Studies.

There are a number of entrance exams for admission into colleges offering LLB courses. The most important entrance exams are CLAT (Common Law Admission Test), AILET (All India Law Entrance Test), LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and DUET (Delhi University Entrance Test). An LLB program covers subjects like criminal law, family law, cyber law and corporate law. Lawyers are needed in a wide variety of institutions in both government and private sector. Individuals, non-profit organisations, multinational companies, government agencies and judicial bodies hire lawyers for assistance with legal procedures and cases.

Specialisations for legal professionals

While attending law school or after graduating from one, most lawyers and attorneys choose to specialise in an area of the law. When practising, an individual in either role can provide legal advice and support in any specialisation they choose. Some of the popular specialisations include:

  • real estate law

  • family law

  • criminal law

  • intellectual property law

  • general law

  • corporate and business law

  • tax law

  • bankruptcy law

  • civil rights law

  • environmental law

  • immigration law

  • labour and employment law

  • personal injury law

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Although law school provides a general overview of all the areas of the law, lawyers and attorneys go through additional training and education in their area of focus to gain more experience and develop a specific knowledge base. Attorneys typically consult with and provide their services to clients whose cases pertain to their chosen field of law.


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