Posted in Lifelong Learning, Taking Care of Business

Is my Attorney, my Lawyer? – A Simple, Easy to Follow Guide to Understanding the Differences

Attorney (noun). Synonyms: lawyer – solicitor – barrister – advocate – counsel

ATTORNEY – Origin – Anglo-French attourne literally, (one who is) turned to, i.e., appointed – “a person acting for another as an agent or deputy.”

An Attorney at Law is a Lawyer while an Attorney at fact is anagent and not necessarily trained as a lawyer.


Lawyer is a generic term for anyone trained to provide legal services.  This usually involves at least three years of study and sitting for a qualifying exam known as the bar.


  • A person appointed to act for another in business or legal matters.
  • A. Lawyer.
So far so good.
But what is with Barristers, Solicitors, Esquire and Of Counsel? are these more than synonyms for the same functions?

Under the English system of law there is a distincition based on the type of work a lawyer does. 

Barristers and Solicitors.  Barristers handle contentious matters, for example court cases.  Solicitors historically have solicited work on behalf of Barristers and handle non-contentious matters, for example, contract drafting and wills.

Historically, Barristers (very different from Baristas) have served as advocates of their clients in court and solictors would provide the initial advice to the clients and where there is a need, instruct the Barrister to provide their client with court representation or advise in a particular area of law.

Although document executing and non-litigation type matters have been handled by Solicitors in the past, more and more Barristers are moving into that realm.

Then there is “Of Counsel” which is defined as a position “characterized by ‘a close, regular, personal relationship'” but excluding “that of a partner with the shared liability and/or managerial or associate lawyer regularly employed by the firm (see Of Counsel defined)

This goes beyond a casual relationship with the firm or a consultation on a case albeit on a long term basis.  In some cases the lawyer may be brought on with or without the expectation that he/she will become a partner.

Esquire originates from the English.  Historically, a title of dignity, used in addressing a landed proprietor or county squire; a young nobleman who, in training for knighthood, acted as an attendant to a knight.

from Old French esquier, from Latin scutarius  ‘shield-bearer’, from scutum  ‘shield’.

In the United States it is a title appended to the surname of female and male lawyers when addressing them in the third person as in formal introduction or on a letterhead of the lawyer.

Did you know it is not to be used along with any prenominal form of address, such as Dr., Mr., or Ms?



Broad based knowledge seeker; outside and beyond the box - arts and culture, travel, writing, christian faith walk, good reads and refreshing conversation - and not necessarily in that order. Storytelling by connecting the dots between the traditional and non-traditional, the obvious and not so obvious.

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