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What Is the Difference Between a Lawyer and an Attorney?

When you seek a legal advocate to represent you in court, whether you’ve been charged or are pursuing a personal injury case, you’re looking for an attorney. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there’s actually a difference in the title of “lawyer” and “attorney.”

This distinction is especially important when looking for representation in a personal injury case.

Lawyer and Attorney Defined

By definition, a lawyer is anyone who graduated from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. These individuals hold a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree but are not necessarily licensed to practice law in their state, including California.

However, an attorney is someone who has been admitted to their state bar, in this case, the California Bar Association. This gives them a license to practice law and, most importantly, represent clients in court.

What Are Lawyers Allowed to Do?

Lawyers who are not licensed in California may still complete tasks and provide guidance about legal issues. For example:

  • Newly graduated law students may work for law firms while they wait to pass the bar exam
  • Lawyers may provide tax advice but cannot represent a client in front of the IRS
  • Lawyers may draft legal documents, such as wills, trusts, or divorce decrees
  • Advise people about issues related to patents

The one key difference is that a lawyer is not permitted to represent clients in court.

What Can an Attorney Do for You?

Once a lawyer passes the bar exam or is otherwise admitted to the state bar association, they may represent clients in court. There are other legal matters that only attorneys may do, including:

  • Filing a personal injury or other type of lawsuit
  • Defending individuals accused of a crime or drug charge
  • Handling the complex issues surrounding immigration law
  • Representing clients in front of the IRS

An attorney will better represent most people’s legal needs than a lawyer. Attorneys have the full authority to represent you in all court matters.

California Attorney Licensing Regulations

The first step in obtaining a license to practice law in California is passing the state’s bar exam. 

Many states have reciprocity agreements with other states to allow out-of-state attorneys licensed to practice in that state. However, California requires every lawyer who wishes to practice in the state to pass the California bar exam, even if they’re licensed attorneys in another state.

Individuals who wish to be admitted to the state bar also must be of high moral character, as per the standards of the California State Bar. Also, all applicants must comply with any court orders pertaining to child or family support.

How Do I Choose the Right Personal Injury Attorney?

Finding the right legal advocate can be overwhelming if you have a personal injury claim. But since you and your attorney will be working closely together for quite a while, it’s essential to find one you trust and can communicate well with. Interviewing several attorneys to find the right fit is a good first step.

However, there’s more than just a good personality fit to finding the best personal injury attorney for your case. You need an attorney with the skills to pursue your claim and negotiate on your behalf. It helps to ask:

  • How often will I receive updates about my case?
  • What are strategies you’ll use for my personal injury claim?
  • How will I be charged attorney’s fees?
  • What is your experience handling my type of case?
  • What is your success rate?

Be wary of attorneys who guarantee a win or promise a huge settlement. An attorney’s job is to provide honest advice and manage your expectations. When you find someone who tells you the truth, you’re more likely to be satisfied with your results.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA

If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.

M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers – Los Angeles Office
4929 Wilshire Blvd Suite 960,
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(855) 599-2987

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