What’s the difference between a lawyer and an attorney? | FAQs

LAW   |   2 minutes  |   November 30, 2016

Curious about the differences between a lawyer and an attorney? Watch this video to hear Melanie Louw, the Head Tutor on the University of Cape Town Contract and Commercial Law online short course, discuss the major differences and how understanding the differences could affect your career in contract law and commercial law.

People often confuse the words attorney and lawyer, believing them to serve different functions. However, the only real difference between the two is the region in which the word is used. They are effectively the same thing in terms of law, whether that be commercial, corporate, commercial law or contract law. Both an attorney and a lawyer refer to legal professionals who perform the same work. The synonyms can be used interchangeably. In South Africa, lawyer and attorney can be used to describe someone who is performing a legal function but in the United States, the word “councilor” might also be included in the mix.

If you’re looking for a career in corporate, contract law or commercial law you might find yourself being referred to as either an attorney or a lawyer. The best way to ensure you don’t need to rely on the services of a professional lawyer or attorney? Investigate contract management courses that help you better understand the legal world, law of contracts and how commercial law might and will affect your organisation’s success.


A lawyer and an attorney is exactly the same thing, which means that they’re synonyms for the same legal professional. We in South Africa, refer to lawyers and attorneys, whereas in the USA, for example, they refer to councilors. So, when we speak about a lawyer, and when we speak about an attorney, we’re actually referring to exactly the same professional.