Attorneys, Lawyers, and Esquires: What Are They And How Are They Different?

by | Jul 12, 2021 | Uncategorized

There are lots of different names thrown around for lawyers including the terms attorneys and esquires, so it is easy to get confused about what the difference is (if there even is any). This blog post aims to clear up any confusion regarding the relationship between the three different legal titles. 


The term lawyer is by far the most common of the three and the one the general public is most often familiar with. A lawyer is someone trained in both general legal matters and a few specific niches depending upon their focus in law school. Lawyers can work as prosecutors (working against defendants to convict them of crimes) or as defense attorneys that work to prove their clients’ innocence.

Lawyers can also be specialists in other matters like business law, contract negotiations, or mediations/arbitrations. Want to know more about what a lawyer does? Read this great article from the NALP: What Do Lawyers Do?


Attorney is the second-most popular out of the three terms we are examining today, and many of you may be surprised to find that there is no real difference between an attorney and a lawyer per say. While attorney is more commonly used to designate an individual that works for a practice, it can refer to anyone that is a lawyer as well and not be used incorrectly. 

Interestingly enough, this leads to a bit of a chicken and egg situation: all lawyers are attorneys although not all lawyers are attorneys! To learn more about this minor and somewhat implied difference, read this article: Attorneys vs Lawyers


Now, last but not least, we move to the final term on the list: esquire. This is surely the least well known and at this point may be a bit outdated, but it’s an interesting bit of legal terminology that still pokes its head out in the modern sense from time to time. Esquire is actually a title given to a lawyer or an attorney to demonstrate their legal aptitude. 

The origin of this title comes from England: it originally referred to an individual that ranked below a knight but above a gentleman. Lawyers were highly-regarded professionals that received and ultimately independently adopted the title to come after their names. For example, if John B. Smith becomes a lawyer, he would then be eligible to be referred to as John B. Smith, Esq. 

Hopefully this blog post cleared up the nuanced differences between these three similar terms. For more information or help with your own personal legal troubles, start a conversation with our team at Markesbery and Richardson here.

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