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The Differences Between Lawyer, Attorney & Paralegal

Many people believe that lawyers and attorneys are one and the same and often interchange these titles when discussing all things legal. The little known fact is there are slight differences between lawyers and attorneys which lawyers and attorneys prefer to keep to themselves.

First of all, an attorney is a lawyer but a lawyer is not necessarily an attorney. How so?

A lawyer is someone who has successfully graduated from law school.

An attorney is someone who has successfully graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and has a license to practice law.

Also, a lawyer can give legal advice and counsel but he may not act as a legal representative in a court of law until he takes and passes the bar. Fortunately, in the United States, most lawyers will automatically pursue the ultimate goal of passing the bar as a standard of excellence, to add to their credentials, and also because it is expected of them to do so.

Difference between an Attorney and Paralegal

Unlike lawyers and attorneys where the distinction is barely visible, paralegals and attorneys are miles apart in terms of qualifications and credentials. An attorney not only has to pass the bar exam, he or she should also graduate from an accredited ABA law school, pass state screening, pay annual fees for a license to practice, and follow strict ethical standards set by the American Bar Association (ABA). For his efforts, he can give legal advice, stand and represent clients in any legal proceeding, and basically, practice law as an individual or as part of a law firm.

A paralegal is required to take law as a degree course and can work as a paralegal by passing a certificate training program for paralegals. Most paralegals are given their title by the attorneys who hire them. Their work consists mostly of legal research, preparing drafts of legal documents, record-keeping, and administrative work in a law firm. They are not allowed to dispense legal advice or represent clients in any legal proceeding. Everything they do as a paralegal must have the stamp of an attorney’s approval.

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