The Great Debate: Lawyer vs. Solicitor vs. Advocate vs. Barrister vs. Counselor vs. Attorney

Lawyers, lawyers, lawyers… you can’t turn around without bumping into one of them! It’s easy to get confused with all the different types of legal professionals that exist and what they do in the court system.

While it may be confusing trying to find out exactly what your legal issue is and then figuring out who you need to contact about it, there are ways to figure it out so you know exactly who to call and what that person does. Here we will go over the differences between a lawyer, solicitor, advocate, barrister, counselor, and attorney.

What does each occupation mean?


A lawyer is a person who practices law, as an advocate, barrister, attorney, counselor or solicitor or chartered legal executive. Lawyers can also work in a variety of non-legal jobs such as parliamentary affairs managers or corporate legal advisers. A lawyer assists clients with legal advice and counsel for their day-to-day personal and business problems.

How is a lawyer different from a solicitor?


Although we see them interchangeably in everyday language, these terms have very different meanings for legal professionals. Generally speaking, a lawyer is someone who has graduated from law school and passed his or her state’s bar exam; a solicitor is an attorney that advises clients on how to maneuver through legal processes.

Why would you need a barrister in court?


If you’re dealing with a matter that could lead to imprisonment, it’s not uncommon for parties to appear before a higher court, rather than a lower court. This means that they would need a barrister (one of only around 1,500 in England and Wales) as opposed to a solicitor or advocate.

When should you hire a counselor instead of a lawyer/attorney?


When you are looking for a counselor, your first thought might be to go with a lawyer, since they do both legal and counseling work. However, there are times when it makes more sense to hire a counselor instead of a lawyer – here are some pointers as to what those circumstances could be

Should I use a lawyer or attorney if I’m in the U.S.?


If you’re writing in an American context, it’s best to use an attorney when you mean lawyer (it is used as a synonym in legal writing) and lawyer when you mean attorney or barrister. However, there are regional quirks—for example, a Chicago attorney may be called a counselor, which will make her cringe (I know; I am one), because she actually prefers to be called an attorney!

Why would I want to be in any of these jobs, anyway?


Lawyers and legal professionals are arguably some of those in which it’s especially important to know what you’re getting into and why you’d want to go down that particular path. The job has a deeply-ingrained place in our collective consciousness, but not all legal workers or jobs can be described as the same, which is why it’s worth asking what exactly differentiates them from one another.