Court is in session: Attorney v. lawyer

When you’re going to court, do you need and attorney or a lawyer?

That all depends…if whoever you’re writing for is a real stickler for accuracy.

Technically, an attorney conducts business for someone else. A good synonym is agent. One type of attorney is a lawyer.

lawyer practices law. The lawyer does so by representing plaintiffs and defendants in a court of law. The lawyer also can provide legal advice to clients.

Given this, you may use the word attorney whenever referring to a lawyer. But an attorney isn’t always a lawyer.

Some lawyers prefer to use the term attorney when referring to themselves. This largely is because some believe the word lawyer carries the negative connotation of being dishonest.

If using the term attorney to refer to a lawyer, always make clear that the type of work the attorney is doing is involves legal matters.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.