Law and Order may have implanted in you the idea that, “the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, and the district attorneys”. But chances are you are not sure exactly what an attorney is, and whether they are any different from a lawyer.

Lawyer v Attorney. The Same?

A lawyer, in Australia, is a broad term referring to any person who has been admitted to the legal profession as a barrister or solicitor. The terms lawyer and attorney are largely used interchangeably. However, in many instances when someone uses the term attorney they are referring to a solicitor rather than a barrister. The reason for this ambiguity is that the term isn’t used frequently within the Australian legal system. It is just a synonym for the word ‘solicitor’, born in popular parlance from it’s incessant use in American crime shows. The term ‘attorney’ does not have as much gravity as it does within the United States legal system.

Within the United States legal system, an attorney, short for an attorney of law, refers strictly to an individual who is able to prosecute, and defend cases in a court of law. In essence, this means you can only be an attorney if you appear in court to represent your clients, have passed the bar exam, and have permission to practice law in a jurisdiction. Like in Australia, a lawyer is a general term for those that provide legal guidance. So… An attorney is a lawyer, but a lawyer is not necessarily an attorney.

Trademark/Patent Attorney: An exception?

A Trademark Attorney is the exception to the rule within Australia. Those who are qualified to represent clients in matters of intellectual property law, adopt the official title of ‘attorney’. They are represented by organisations, such as The Institute of Patent and TradeMark Attorneys of Australia, who also acknowledge that this is the official title for those working in intellectual law. But remember even if they hold this title of ‘attorney’ for all intents and purposes, they are solicitors, and barristers.

Long story short, If you need legal guidance, then contact a solicitor, or a barrister.

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Anthony Guerrieri

Anthony is a Paralegal working in our content team, which writes free legal guides aimed at improving public awareness of legal and business issues. Anthony has an interest in simplifying complex legal problems in order to allow people to understand their legal dilemmas.