Are You a ‘Lawyer’ or an ‘Attorney’?

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.