What is the difference between attorney, barrister, lawyer, and solicitor? How about advocate, counsel, counselor, or counselor-at-law?

Lawyer is a general term for a person who gives legal device and aid and who conducts suits in court.

An attorney or, more correctly, an attorney-at-law, is a member of the legal profession who represents a client in court when pleading or defending a case. In the US, attorney applies to any lawyer. In the UK, those who practice law are divided into barristers, who represent clients in open court and may appear at the bar, and solicitors, who are permitted to conduct litigation in court but not to plead cases in open court. The barrister does not deal directly with clients but does so through a solicitor. The word attorney comes from French meaning ‘one appointed or constituted’ and the word’s original meaning is of a person acting for another as an agent or deputy. A solicitor would be the UK equivalent of the US attorney-at-lawCounsel usually refers to a body of legal advisers but also pertains to a single legal adviser and is a synonym for advocatebarristercounselor, and counselor-at-law.

As to the abbreviation ‘Esq.’ for ‘Esquire’ used by some lawyers, it has no precise significance in the United States except as sometimes applied to certain public officials, such as justices of the peace. For some reason, lawyers often add it to their surname in written address. However, it is a title that is specifically male with no female equivalent, so its use by lawyers should fade away.


  1. Paul Theodoropoulos -  October 9, 2016 - 10:26 am

    “Lawyer is a general term for a person who gives legal device”

    You might want to correct that. I’ve never been given a device from a lawyer.

    • Jackie Florendo -  October 18, 2016 - 10:02 am

      LOL. whoever transcribed this.
      device to advice.

    • Jeff Thomas -  December 8, 2016 - 5:31 pm

      A lawyer may have given you a “device” but in polite company those
      terms are not generally used! LOL!

  2. Sussan -  September 11, 2016 - 12:34 pm

    still don’t get it pls, does that mean lawyers don’t plead cases in open court only barristers?

    • Sussan -  September 28, 2016 - 10:36 am

      Oh Bongo Marry me!

  3. Anurag das -  September 2, 2016 - 2:02 am

    Good…gives info sufficiently..

  4. Gary -  August 24, 2016 - 2:30 pm

    So I still don’t get it. From this article, I infer that one needs both a barrister and a solicitor. It says that a barrister makes pleadings in open court but doesn’t confer with his client. And a solicitor seems to be exactly the opposite. He meets with the clients, but cannot plead their cases in court. So does that mean that if someone is accused of a crime in the UK he must hire a team of a barrister and a solicitor?

  5. abhi -  July 31, 2016 - 7:25 pm

    what is difference between lawyer and advocate….,. can any one tell this

  6. Nzinga Bunga -  June 11, 2016 - 7:11 am

    Rudolf, device? Are you kidding? Of course is “advice”…..Sorry, but in this way Santa will be mad at you.

  7. Nzinga Bunga -  June 11, 2016 - 7:10 am

    Device? No, of course is device….sorry Rudolf…..this way, Santa will be mad at you.

  8. Nzinga Bunga -  June 11, 2016 - 7:09 am

    Device?? OMG! Of course is advice, not device….Sorry Rudolf…Santa will be mad at you!

  9. Prince Kizito Azubuike -  June 9, 2016 - 2:03 am

    I allign with the viewpoint expressed. In practical terms there are those who read Law in the university and attended Law school but who are not practising the profession, in terms of attending court sessions to advocate for or defend a client. Here in Nigeria we are used to not bothering about whether or not defining things are properly defined or called their correct names; we usually assume that the other person should understand us and so no point trying to define things/issues properly and correctly as speakers of the English language would want us to.

  10. Rudolf -  May 28, 2016 - 10:16 pm

    “Lawyer is a general term for a person who gives legal device and aid and who conducts suits in court.”

    I think “device” should be “advice” in the definition of lawyer.


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