Lawyer, Attorney, General Counsel, what’s the difference?
In the field of law, each word has precise meaning that can affect delivery. As a layperson, I’ve been hearing these three words – lawyer, attorney and general counsel – used interchangeably. So, I investigated, do they all mean the same thing? Well, here’s what I learned:
- Lawyer: “A person trained in the law”
- Attorney: ”An attorney, or attorney-at-law is also a lawyer. They have attended law school and presumably “practice” the study of law as a career.”
- General Counsel: ”The chief lawyer of a legal department, usually in a corporation or government department. The term is most used in the United States.”
So for further clarification, here are some examples:
- My girlfriend is a lawyer but not an attorney, because she’s not practicing law.
- My brother-in-law is general counsel at a company.
- My cousin is an attorney for her firm.
An attorney is a lawyer, but a lawyer may not necessarily be an attorney!