There are many different reasons that different people need the services of lawyers. Depending on an individual’s needs and their previous experience with looking for lawyers and their various services, looking for one can be a daunting task. Many people begin their search at a loss as to what kind of qualifications they need a lawyer to have, the kind of lawyer they need, and how to go about looking for a top lawyer in the location where their legal needs are.

Some people need the services of one or more kind of lawyer on an ongoing and regular basis whereas many people only find themselves in need of a lawyer or legal advice on one or a few occasions. If you are someone whose main experience with the law is to follow the rules of the road when you are driving and to heed the laws and the norms of the society and community you live in, you may not know about many of the legal terms that frame law and the legal field in the US. 

One common misunderstanding for lay people who are not involved with the law or the legal profession, is whether they need a lawyer or an attorney, and what is the difference between the two. 

Lawyer vs Attorney

Many countries make a clear distinction between lawyers and attorneys but the United States is not one of them. People here, including people in the legal field, tend to use these terms interchangeably but technically, lawyers and attorneys do not necessarily hold the same credentials. Technically, a lawyer is someone who has graduated from an accredited law school and has a law degree but they cannot practice law or represent people in court unless they have also passed a bar exam and are licensed in the jurisdiction where they work. The term attorney is used to indicate that a person has a law degree from an accredited law school and that they are licensed to practice law in one or more jurisdiction. 

Even though we make this technical distinction in the United States, very few people use these terms in the technical sense. The majority of people use the term lawyer to describe someone who is an attorney in the sense that they have a law degree and a license to practice law. Many attorneys advertise themselves as lawyers, and law firms with licensed attorneys in their practice often refer to them simply as lawyers.  If you are looking for someone who can represent you in court and who is licensed to give you legal advice, there’s a good chance that someone advertising themselves as a lawyer is in fact an attorney but it is always a good idea to check a potential lawyer/attorney’s credentials before you retain their services. If you are in the process of looking to hire an attorney, it’s a good idea to also check to make sure they are in good standing with the bar association(s) they are a member of, as well as their professional reputations and previous clients’ experiences with them.