What is the Difference Between a Lawyer, Attorney, and Litigator?

by | Apr 19, 2021

An attorney is considered the official name for a lawyer in the United States. An attorney has passed the bar exam and has been approved to practice law in his jurisdiction. Although the terms often operate as synonyms, an attorney is a lawyer, but a lawyer is not necessarily an attorney.


Is there a difference between a lawyer and an attorney?
What qualifies someone as a lawyer?
What are the duties of a lawyer?
What qualifies someone as an attorney?
Duties of an attorney and attorney-at-law
The definition of lawyer overlaps with the term attorney
What is a litigator?
Why Hire Crane Law?

If you are in need of an experienced and respected trial attorney, also known as a litigator, contact Steve Crane. He and his team can assess the facts of your case and help you determine the best course of action to move forward.

To schedule a discrete and confidential consultation about your matter, email or call us at (248) 963-6300.


The terms attorney and lawyer are often used interchangeably in the United States. There is very little distinction made between the two. This difficulty to differentiate is a result of the fact that in the United States, unlike in other countries, this distinction is not made. However, a slight one does exist.


A lawyer is someone who is learned and trained in law. Yet, they may not actually practice law. They often give legal advice. By attending law school in the United States, one can be considered a lawyer. A student of law must pass the bar exam in their particular jurisdiction in order to practice law by providing legal representation. Otherwise, the opportunities to use their law education are limited. There are many different types of lawyers with many different specializations within the industry. Lawyers have had years of studies and training to understand the law and the judicial system. They specialize in various areas of the law to provide legal advice to clients. They have taken and passed the bar to obtain the license to practice law. However, not all lawyers may choose to take the bar exam since this is a matter of personal choice and discretion.


Lawyers are compelled to strictly observe a code of ethics once they become members of the bar. They draft and write the technical nuances of contracts, wills, and various legal documents. However, in actuality, anyone who has graduated from law school can be regarded as a lawyer even if they have not become members of the bar. Yet, in reality, most people consider lawyers as law students who have passed the bar and are, therefore, more qualified to give legal advice. Some lawyers may not practice law, even when they have passed the bar. They are still lawyers even without actually becoming an officer of the court. For instance, after graduating from law school, a lawyer may become a government advisor or a company consultant. She is still a lawyer but her work does not entail representing clients in legal proceedings. A lawyer may also help strengthen the cases handled by another attorney. The lawyer, however, may not have to argue the case in court. You may seek a lawyer if…
  • You’re planning to draw up a will or trust for your loved ones. (Estate Lawyer)
  • You’d like to be guided on properly setting up and maintaining a corporation. (Corporate Lawyer)
  • You need crucial advice on a tax issue. (Tax Lawyer)
  • You have to deal with an immigration matter like citizenship, visas, green cards, or asylum. (Immigration Lawyer)
  • You plan on having a prenuptial agreement. (Family Lawyer)
  • You need to go over and understand work contracts with an employee or employer. (Employment Lawyer)
  • You want your intellectual property protected via copyright, trademark, or patent. (Intellectual Property Lawyer)
  • You generally need legal advice or learn the proper procedures and terms of what’s in a legal document. (General Practitioner Lawyer)


Like lawyers, attorneys, also known as “attorneys-at-law,” have studied the law and the judicial system, as well as passed the bar to earn their license to practice the law. They are required to comply with a code of ethics but not every lawyer can be an attorney-at-law. A lawyer can be called an attorney if he takes on a client and then represents and acts on this person’s interests, hence the term “attorney-client” privilege. Most legal practitioners prefer the term “attorney” since it has a more professional and dignified connotation than a “lawyer.”


The word attorney comes the old French word “atorner,” which refers to an agent chosen by the client or principal to act on his behalf. They are the legal eagles that practice the law in court to defend, plead, and argue for their client. It is compulsory for attorneys-at-law to take and pass the bar exam since they are the actual officers of the court. But there is also such a thing as a document called Power of Attorney, which gives these professionals, either as individuals or as a firm, the legal, financial, and medical right to decide for their client’s interest. They make the calls and execute critical and sensitive decisions on behalf of their clients, as specifically defined and underscored in the document. In some cases, an attorney may be an “attorney-in-fact.” This is an individual who is authorized to conduct transactions on behalf of another person (client or principal). This is a temporary duty protected under the Power of Attorney or Special Power of Attorney. An attorney-in-fact may be the principal’s family member or a trusted close family friend. They do not have to practice the law so they are not an attorney-at-law. The latter should be a licensed lawyer who knows the law by heart. You may hire an attorney if, among other thing:
  • You are involved in a criminal case or a civil lawsuit that has to be tried in court. (Trial Attorney/Civic Litigation attorney)
  • You need to have representation against the IRS. (Tax Attorney)
  • You want to contest or defend a will or trust during litigation or a court proceeding. (Estate Attorney)
  • You want to contest or defend an immigration matter. (Immigration Attorney)
  • You need to undergo a divorce proceeding or a child custody litigation. (Family Attorney)
  • You want to negotiate for the right compensation for damages. (Personal Injury attorney)
  • You are suing or you’re being sued for medical malpractice. (Medical Malpractice Attorney)
  • You have to contest or defend a copyright, trademark or patent lawsuit. (IP Attorney)


The English word attorney has French origins, where it meant a person acting for another as an agent or deputy. A lawyer, by definition, is someone who is trained in the field of law and provides advice and aid on legal matters. Because a lawyer also conducts suits in court proceedings and represents clients in various legal instances, the term has expanded to overlap the definition of attorney. In the U.S., attorney and lawyer are normally considered synonyms. The term lawyer has Middle English roots.”


A litigator (often referred to as a trial lawyer) is type of lawyer that handles the litigation process in civil cases. Litigation refers to the process of taking legal action against another person, group or business to solve a dispute. Litigators can represent either defendants or plaintiffs and often spend time arguing cases in the courtroom. The process can include investigation, trials, settlements, appeals and more. Not all litigation will end up in court, but a litigator is well prepared to handle this legal process when necessary.

Litigators are attorneys who specialize in litigation, or taking legal action against people and organizations. They often manage the process from start to finish. Learn more here: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/the-definition-of-litigator-2164407

For 25 years, Steve Crane has successfully prosecuted and defended against legal actions, and we have likewise achieved client objectives through arbitrations and negotiated conclusions.
As an experienced trial lawyer, Steve Crane can gauge when it makes sense to go to court. He knows that a letter or phone call — with proper wording and timing — can be more effective or cost-efficient than suing for damages or injunctive relief.

Steve Crane is eminently qualified to assert your interests before a judge or jury.

To schedule a discrete and confidential consultation about your matter, email or call us at (248) 963-6300.