These days, the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” tend to be used interchangeably. But did you know there is actually a historical difference between the two and which jobs each could work in? So what is the difference between a lawyer and an attorney, and how do you know which one you need?

Traditionally, an attorney was licensed to practice law – a lawyer was not. Read on to learn about the distinction between the two and which roles each played in the legal profession.

What Is a Lawyer?

The word “lawyer” was a generic term for anyone who has obtained a legal degree. If you’ve got a Juris Doctor and/or a Master of Laws, you’re a lawyer, even if you haven’t passed the bar exam yet. This is similar to the training doctors undergo – once you graduate medical school, you’re a doctor even if you haven’t yet passed your licensing exams.

The big difference between lawyers and attorneys is that lawyers are not licensed to practice. They cannot defend clients in court and may not be able to provide legal counsel in certain situations.

What Is an Attorney?

An attorney is a lawyer who has passed the bar exam in their state and met any other licensing requirements for that jurisdiction. They maintain a license to practice law and can work in the courts in that area. An attorney can provide legal counsel, prepare legal documents, defend clients in court, and engage in other legal work.

It is important to note that just because an attorney is licensed in one jurisdiction does not mean they can practice anywhere. For instance, attorneys who have passed the Louisiana bar exam can’t practice law in Mississippi without passing another bar exam.

Common Jobs for Lawyers

Even though lawyers aren’t licensed to practice law, they can still work in the legal profession. Many lawyers provide legal advice to businesses and help them to prepare legal documents. They can’t represent these businesses in a court of law, but they can advise them on the best actions to take in certain situations.

Some lawyers or former attorneys also choose to work in the education sector, teaching future attorneys. Others may use their expertise in related sectors, such as tax preparation or marketing. 

There are several professions in which a legal education can be helpful, but a license to practice isn’t necessary.

Common Roles for Attorneys

For the most part, attorneys represent clients in various legal matters. They can work with individuals, represent corporations, join the government sector, or work in a variety of other roles.

There are dozens of different areas a lawyer can choose to practice in, including

  • Personal injury and car accident law
  • Family law
  • Labor law
  • Tax law
  • Commercial law
  • Intellectual property
  • Environmental law
  • Immigration law
  • Criminal law
  • Property law
  • And many more

Attorneys have full legal rights to defend clients in court, prepare legal documents, and act in all other legal matters. However, they only have these rights in the jurisdiction(s) they’re licensed in. Practicing in other jurisdictions could get you in trouble for practicing law without a license.

Do You Need a Lawyer or an Attorney?

Whether you need a lawyer or an attorney will depend on what legal services you need. If you need advice about the law in your state, a lawyer can help you. Likewise, a lawyer may be able to draw up certain legal documents for you, depending on regulations in your state.

If you need any form of legal representation, you need to seek out an attorney. This includes representation in both criminal and civil cases.

Get the Representation You Need

You may hear the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” used interchangeably, but they are two distinct roles. Lawyers have completed a legal degree, while attorneys are licensed to practice law in their jurisdiction. Which you should work with depends on your particular needs.

If you need representation in a personal injury case, you need to speak to a Lafayette personal injury attorney.

Schedule a free consultation with us to discuss the details of your case.

Contact the Louisiana Personal Injury Law Firm Of Kenny Habetz Injury Law for Help Today

If you’ve been injured in Louisiana, please call Kenny Habetz Injury Law for a free case evaluation with a personal injury lawyer or contact us online.

Kenny Habetz Injury Law – Lafayette
110 E Kaliste Saloom Rd Ste 101 Lafayette, LA 70508
(337) 399-9000

Kenny Habetz Injury Law – Crowley
604 S Parkerson Ave. Crowley, LA 70526
(337) 329-8883