Somewhere along the line, I picked up the idea that a lawyer is always a “lawyer,” but should only be called an “attorney” in connection with representing a client. (“John went to law school and became a lawyer. He is now the attorney for an accused bank robber.)

At his blog You Don’t Say, language maven John E. McIntyre offers a simple solution for how to distinguish between the two terms: “Don’t bother.”

In practice, the distinction is without a difference, McIntyre says. As authority, he cites Bryan Garner, editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary and author of several books on legal style. “I’m content to take his views as representing settled usage,” McIntyre writes.

If McIntyre and Garner both agree that a lawyer is an attorney is a lawyer, that’s good enough for this member of the bar.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.