Alicia Lucero
Alicia Lucero

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Is There A Difference Between A Lawyer and An Attorney?

These terms often get used interchangeably, but do they really mean the same thing?

In reality, the two terms are in fact similar in most ways, but there are a few details that differentiate them. To fully understand the difference between a lawyer and an attorney, you must take into consideration the situations they are involved in and the types of services they provide.


The term “lawyer” is a more general term that merely refers to a person who gives legal advice or aid to clients and who conducts suits in court.

Typically, the term “lawyer” is used as a blanket term to describe the entire legal profession.


An attorney, more specifically, is a member of the legal profession whose job is to represent clients in court when pleading or to defend a case.

Therefore, all attorneys are, in fact, lawyers, but all lawyers are not necessarily attorneys. Lawyers who represent clients in court are attorneys and lawyers who are not qualified to represent clients in court are not attorneys. Also, a divorce attorney is almost always the same thing as a divorce lawyer.

To take the explanation one step further, any practicing legal professional in Canada can define themselves even more specifically as either a barrister, a solicitor, or both. Most legal professionals, however, choose to represent themselves using only one of the two terms.

While the difference between a lawyer and an attorney is minimal and situational, there is a difference between a barrister and a solicitor.


Barristers specialize in court work. The primary role of a barrister is usually to act as advocates in legal hearings by pleading cases in front of the judge on behalf of their clients.

Although the barrister acts on behalf of the client, however, they typically do not have contact with the client – they receive their instructions (and often must be referred by) a solicitor.

Barristers are most often self-employed and work in what is known as a Chamber, which is typically shared amongst multiple barristers. In some cases, they can be employed by banks, corporations, or solicitor firms.


Solicitors, on the one hand, act as the middlemen between barristers and clients. They are the ones who go to meet with clients, provide legal advice, propose referrals, etc. They then relay this information to the barrister, who pleads it in front of the judge.

Additionally, a solicitor is the person to see if your legal needs are in regards to any type of transactional work. This could include house or business sales, preparation of wills, forming trusts, etc.

Solicitors can work in a variety of environments, such as commercial or non-commercial law firms, the government, private businesses, banks, or even corporations. Often, a solicitor has specialized in a specific area of law (Ie: family, property, financial, etc.).

Finding the Right Divorce Legal Services

When it comes down to divorce, every one of your friends has an opinion on what’s best for you. You should listen to their advice. Your friends, neighbors, coworkers, mother, hairdresser – all of these people earnestly want the best for you in this tough time.

Although, what you need most of all is experienced professionals to handle the complex legal issues involved!

Gather a Strong Legal Defense Team

Carefully consider who you hire as your divorce lawyer. Compare the credentials of their legal background and services. A good lawyer must communicate with you and listen to your problems. Being completely open with your lawyer will give essential legal advice. An attorney firm also needs confidence with the time and energy to dedicate to your case

To help you get through the emotions and stress of separation, don’t feel ashamed to seek a psychiatrist that specializes in marriage relationships. Accepting help in the transition is healthy. Don’t close yourself off from loved ones.

Also, it may be helpful to have a forensic accountant on your team. A forensic accountant can trace assets and the hidden value of your possessions.

Depending on your case, you might also want to hire a private investigator. This professional can track down your spouse and help document their history of abuse, infidelity, and wild spending.

Finally, gather together a list of contact you could use as key witnesses, including babysitters, teachers, friends, medical professionals, or police officers. Any witnesses who can substantiate your case should be welcome and introduced to your divorce lawyers.

Build a Healthy Relationship Your Team

You and your divorce lawyer should have a special relationship. Anything that you convey to your lawyer or their staff verbally or in writing is confidential. The right attorney for you seeks your best interest by advocating your position, no matter how burdensome and lost it seems.

It is essential that you have a cooperative relationship. Be honest and forthcoming with the right documents promptly to ensure a smooth process. If you’re are in doubt, call in for a meeting with your lawyer. Your future is at stake! Don’t let a simple mistake slip by and potentially ruin your case. Trust your lawyers to handle the complex paperwork and court procedure, but don’t remain ignorant yourself! Stay informed and keep them accountable to get things done promptly. Despite the whole ordeal, be respectful and calm. Acting professional yourself will go along way in creating a healthy relationship with your legal team.

Private Practice vs. Free Legal Aid Divorce Lawyer

There are some key differences between attorneys who work in private firms (or “private practice”) and those in non-profit work (those in the “public service”).

Clients of private practice divorce lawyers pay them on flat rate basis or an hourly rate. In this line of work, “partners” have an equity interest in the firm, while “associates” are paid on salary. These lawyers typically represent corporations or private individuals.

On the other hand, attorneys working in government and nonprofits are usually paid a salary. Often, clientele does not pay for their services at all. The firm pays their attorney’s salary. The lawyers get a set rate based on their expertise and experience. In public service, salaries are usually lower. Lawyers in these fields advise or represent local, state, or federal government agencies and officials, though they also pledge to help those who cannot afford private practice attorneys.

Sometimes, you may hear some generalization or rumors that about public interest attorneys and private practice, such as one group spending more time with clients than the other. You should approach these claims with a skepticism and, instead, thoroughly research the firms yourself.

To Recap

The main difference between a lawyer and an attorney is that lawyer is a general term for someone practicing law; an attorney is a term for someone who works explicitly as representatives of clients in court, pleading cases in front of a judge.

Regarding legal professionals, the real difference is between barristers and solicitors – barristers being the individuals who represent their clients in front of a judge and solicitors being the individuals who consult with clients, providing advice, referrals, and a variety of transactional work.

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