Although the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” are frequently used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same thing. It is fair to say that all attorneys are lawyers, but not all lawyers are attorneys. Put succinctly, a lawyer is someone trained in the law, while an attorney is someone who is trained in the law and who qualifies to advocate directly for clients.
What’s a Lawyer?
Lawyers in the United States must complete different educational requirements than lawyers in many other countries. Below is a general description of a US lawyer’s career path.
How To Become a Lawyer in the United States
To qualify as a lawyer, you need to graduate from law school. Unlike many other countries, in the US, law is offered as a major only at the graduate level. Typically, you must first obtain a bachelor’s degree before you even begin the study of law. There are rare exceptions, but this is the general rule.
Once you enter law school, you face a six-semester, three-year curriculum. Typically, the first-year courses are mandatory for every student, while second- and third-year courses are mostly elective. At most schools, you cannot major in a particular subfield of law. You can, however, schedule several different courses in the same field of law (bankruptcy law, for example) and sometimes receive a specialization or other similar designation on your degree.
Once you achieve the minimum number of credit hours, including all required courses, you are eligible to graduate. Typically, no work experience or internships are required, although law students eagerly seek such opportunities.
What Lawyers Can Do if They Are Not Attorneys
Lawyers cannot act as attorneys simply by graduating from law school. They can still work for law firms or as lawyers employed in the legal department of a corporation. They might work for the IBM legal department, for example, or for a bank.
A lawyer who is not an attorney can perform many activities that attorneys perform, such as drafting contracts or court briefs. The main limitation is that they cannot give legal advice directly to clients, and all their work must be approved by an attorney before it leaves the office.
What’s an Attorney?
Attorneys are lawyers who are members of the bar association in at least one US jurisdiction.
How To Become an Attorney in the United States
To gain admission to a bar association in the US, you must first pass the bar exam in at least one US state or in the District of Columbia. If you intend to practice in Orlando, for example, you should take the Florida Bar Exam.
You will also undergo an examination of your moral character and fitness to practice law. If you pass these tests, your state will admit you to their bar association and you will become an attorney. Later in your career, you might need to gain admission to practice before various courts, such as a federal district court or the US Supreme Court.
What Attorneys Can Do
Once you qualify as an attorney in a United States jurisdiction, you can practice almost any form of law within that jurisdiction. If you qualify as an attorney in Florida, for example, you can represent a criminal defendant in Orlando on Monday, write someone’s last will and testament in Miami on Tuesday, and file a personal injury claim in Jacksonville on Wednesday.
A few legal specialties require additional qualifications. A patent lawyer, for example, must pass the Patent Bar in addition to the Florida Bar Exam.
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Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC
815 N Magnolia Ave Suite 100
Orlando, FL 32803