Confused about the Different Types of Lawyers? You’re Not Alone!

If you’re like most people, you might be wondering what exactly the difference between all of these different types of lawyers is. After all, they all seem to do the same things, right? Well, that’s actually sort of right and sort of wrong. All lawyers are trained to help clients with legal problems that come up in their lives, but there are actually several different kinds of lawyers with specialized areas of expertise. Let’s take a closer look at the five most common types of lawyers and what makes them unique from one another!

A lawyer


Lawyers are attorneys that have been to law school and have passed a state bar exam. Lawyers tend to do more paperwork than anything else. They are also well known for being expensive, which is why many people don’t hire them.

However, if you want something done right, you need to go see a lawyer. I highly recommend not hiring one unless you really need to.

A solicitor


Solicitors draft legal documents and perform other non-advocacy tasks. They can act on behalf of a party in court, but only as a representative; solicitors are not considered to be practicing law by themselves.

They might work at a private law firm or for a public agency such as Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), where they will often represent their client through first-instance hearings before prosecution cases go to trial.

An advocate


As you may have guessed, advocates represent clients in court. What’s interesting is that although an advocate represents his or her client, advocates are held to high standards, and therefore must be legally knowledgeable. Advocates take all of their own client cases from start to finish without help from solicitors or barristers. In some cases, when a case gets too complex for an advocate to handle alone, he will ask for help from a solicitor.

A barrister


A legal representative (or just attorney) is what most people think of when they think of a lawyer, but there are many other types and titles available in law. If you are representing yourself in court, for example, you’re known as pro se.

A common misconception about lawyers is that all have a law degree, when in fact only one-third actually do. Attorneys who deal with civil or business matters don’t need a law degree—they can be called paralegals. Other specialties in law include judges, magistrates, and justices, who are trained to handle criminal cases.

A counselor


Offers non-legal advice and help. Counselors generally can’t act as an advocate or provide legal services. For example, a worker seeking compensation for an on-the-job injury may hire a counselor to help her sort through her options; sometimes counselors will offer mediation or arbitration services.

These experts aren’t licensed to give legal advice, but they may be able to help you decide whether to hire a lawyer.

An attorney


Some lawyers will refer to themselves as attorneys and some don’t. An attorney is a word used in a few different ways: it can be used to describe a person who holds a law degree and has been given authority by a state or national government to officially act on its behalf. The term attorney also describes someone who, without holding law degree, has been granted legal authority by an individual or corporation to act on their behalf.