Why do lawyers specify that they are “attorneys at law?” Are there some attorneys that are not “at law?”

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Why do lawyers specify that they are “attorneys at law?” Are there some attorneys that are not “at law?”

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Yes. The contrast is with “attorney in fact”, which is someone who has been given the “power of attorney” to make legally-binding decisions on another’s behalf: e.g. to buy and sell property in their name. An attorney-in-fact does not necessarily have a license to practice law.

Yes. An attorney is just someone that represents you and make decisions on your behalf. This could be in a legal, business or medical context. You can grant anyone “power of attorney” and make them responsible for making decisions that are legally binding on your behalf. This frequently happens when people are too old, too young, too uninformed or too feeble to act for themselves.

An attorney at law is someone who makes a living by specialising in being appointed to act in just a legal context.

The definition of attorney is simply just “a person appointed to act on behalf of another in a legal matter”…..

The chances of that person being licensed to practice law are likely less than 50/50

Another thing to remember is that (simplifying a complicated history a lot), two different groups of lawyers developed.

One group, stood in for you in a legal context. In other words they were “attorneys-at-law”. They could sign documents on your behalf and, usefully, go on the court record on your behalf. All very useful if you happened not to live in London (where the Royal courts were) or if you were busy and not able to deal with the court promptly or do other legal business while you were busy.

However, courts were tricky things and at one time very formulaic. Get a formula wrong and the whole process might fall apart. It became useful to have people who were (1) experts in the whole nonsense but also (2) not attorneys, so you could disavow them. “Oh, my stupid representative may have said that, but ….”.

This profession became (by various means) the profession of barrister (called to the bar of England and Wales). Barristers are not attorneys at law – they are often said to be “counsel” instead.

Americans don’t make this distinction and are confused when I say that I am a lawyer but not an attorney-at-law (nor an officer of the court).

Attorney at law is the term of art – the actual title of being an ‘attorney’ in relation to law. It’s shortened to ‘attorney’ in common discussion, but in other contexts it is given its full title to both be accurate, but also clear that it is indeed an attorney relating to law, not an attorney of some other kind. e.g. power of attorney as others have explained.

1) it comes from the British system where there were two separate court systems court of law and Court of equity. So they were attorneys at law and attorneys at equity. The systems have since been merged and equitable resolutions can come from the regular Court system.
2) there’s another set of distinctions. There are attorneys at law and attorneys in fact. Attorneys in fact are people who have been appointed to represent/help someone but are not certified bar-passed attorneys. Representative agents of real estate trust or corporations are one example, every corporation has to have a registered agent in a state so people know who to deal with when for example serving them with a subpoena etc. These same people can be the representative in court even though they’re not attorneys so they are attorneys in fact not attorneys in law.

In America, “attorney”, “attorney at law”, “cousel”, “counsellor”, “lawyer” and “esquire” all mean the same thing since there is only one type of lawyer (though there are some specialties like patent law). The difference is their historical development, which has been pretty well explained in this thread.

You just gave me the most Truman Show-esque moment of my life.

About 30 minutes ago I was mowing the lawn and for some reason the song “date rape” by Sublime was stuck in my head. There’s a line in it that goes “looked up her local attorney at law.” As I was daydreaming on the mower I thought “I wonder why they add the ‘at law’” — this was the first time I had ever wondered this in my life. Got off the mower, opened Reddit, and immediately saw this post. Seriously what the fuck

This is why I hate the word “attorney” but in the US it is synonymous with “lawyer”.

An attorney is just someone who represents you as an agent really. I can grant “power of attorney” to any one with minimal qualifications, like a friend or relative or even a homeless person. But a lawyer is licensed to practice law.

And why do they say “in real time?” Is there “unreal time?”

Yep.

An attorney is just a representative; Someone that you’ve said can speak for you

A lawyyer is a legal representative; or an attorney, at law

So I could be an attorney at chow and responsible for the snacks?!

I’m ashamed to admit that I’m an attorney at law and did not know the answer to this question…

A decision that is legally binding, made by some other than yourself is the definition of having an attorney. An attorney can be a healthcare proxy that gets power of attorney to make medical decisions in your BEST interest.