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Attorney vs. lawyer: Which one do you need?

The terms attorney and lawyer are often used interchangeably, but there is a crucial difference between the two. While their duties and areas of expertise may overlap, the key factor that sets them apart is whether you require representation in a court of law.

  • Lawyers are individuals who have received an education in law. They have attended law school and possess the knowledge to explain and draft legal texts for their clients.
  • Attorneys, on the other hand, have not only attended law school but have also passed the bar exam. This allows them to legally represent you in court.

In other words, an attorney can act as a lawyer, but a lawyer cannot act as an attorney. If you find yourself needing representation in court, an attorney is the professional you require. For the creation or translation of legal texts, a lawyer will be best suited to assist you. It is important to note that while this distinction is generally accepted, it is advisable to check with your local state bar to determine the specific regulations in your area.

Find out if your lawyer is licensed

Whenever you require legal guidance, it is essential to ensure that you are hiring a legitimate lawyer or attorney. Here are some steps you can take to verify their credentials:

  • Read law firm reviews from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • Visit the lawyer’s website, where their professional status should be clearly listed.
  • Read reviews from previous clients and ask others who have utilized their services about their experiences.
  • Check your local state bar to view the lawyer’s profile and compare their name to the listed address and phone number.
  • Contact your local Chamber of Commerce. While not mandatory, many lawyers register with the Chamber.
  • Reach out to the law school the lawyer attended to verify their degree.
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Verifying the license of a lawyer not only provides peace of mind but also reveals any disciplinary actions that may not have been disclosed. Thorough research will assist you in making an informed decision regarding hiring an attorney or a lawyer.

How to find an attorney’s bar number

An attorney’s bar number is a unique identifier assigned to them upon successfully passing the bar exam. It serves as a record of their professional activities and allows for quick verification of their legitimacy to practice in a court of law. Additionally, the bar number provides information about any charges or disciplinary actions brought against the attorney. To find this number:

  • Search your local state bar association’s website, which typically features a directory of attorneys in your area.
  • Contact the local association directly and request the attorney’s bar number, along with any available information about them.

Even after obtaining the bar number, you may still have reservations about hiring a particular attorney. In such cases, you can read law firm reviews from the BBB and ask for references from other clients to help you make an informed decision.

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