What Is the Difference Between an Advocate & a Lawyer?

There are lots of different jobs in the legal profession.
There are lots of different jobs in the legal profession. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Lawyers are professionals who represent their clients in court or assist them with business transactions by drafting legal documents and giving advice. The terms lawyer, advocate and attorney all generally mean the same thing within the U.S., but they have different origins and slightly different meanings in other parts of the world.

General Responsibilities

The general responsibilities of attorneys vary. Some attorneys specialize in purely transactional and planning matters and never make court appearances. Other attorneys make their entire living based off of court appearances and rarely assist clients in transactional matters.


In Scotland, advocates are individuals in charge of making court appearances. They are called barristers in England and in the U.S. lawyers who make court appearances are generally just called lawyers, attorneys or litigators. So there is no real difference between advocates and lawyers as most lawyers make court appearances just like an advocate.

Attorneys and Lawyers

Although the distinction is rarely recognized, the term lawyer is meant to describe someone trained in the legal system but not necessarily licensed in any specific jurisdiction. On the other hand, the term attorney denotes that the individual passed the state bar exam in the jurisdiction they reside and is fully licensed to practice law in that jurisdiction.

Other Terms

In England and the U.S., there are several different terms used to describe different types of lawyers, including barristers, solicitors and counselors. A solicitor is an attorney who rarely makes court appearances and serves as a chief law officer of a city or town. A barrister is the same as an advocate, they are attorneys who routinely make court appearances. A counselor at law refers to someone who argues a case in court prepared by another attorney.

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