What is the difference between Attorney and Attorney-at-law?
Attorney-at-law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech as an attorney, is the preferred term for a practicing lawyer in certain jurisdictions, including South Africa (for certain lawyers), Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and the United States. In Canada, it is used only in Quebec as the English term for avocat. The term has its roots in the verb to attorn, meaning to transfer one’s rights and obligations to another.
Previous usage in Ireland and Britain
The term was previously used in England and Wales and Ireland for lawyers who practiced in the common law courts. They were officers of the courts and were under judicial supervision. Attorneys did not generally actually appear as advocates in the higher courts, a role reserved (as it still usually is) for barristers. Solicitors, those lawyers who practiced in the courts of equity, were considered to be more respectable than attorneys and by the mid-19th century, many attorneys were calling themselves solicitors.
The Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873 in England and Wales and the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877 in Ireland redesignated all attorneys as solicitors. The term persists in legal usage in the United Kingdom solely in the instance of patent attorneys, who are legal professionals having sat professional qualifications and are experts in acting in all matters and procedures relating to patent law and practice. They may, or may not, be additionally either solicitors or barristers or have come to the practice through a technical expert route (e.g. following a Ph.D. and period of practice in a scientific or engineering field).
In the now three separate jurisdictions of England and Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland, references in any enactment to attorneys, with the exception of patent attorneys, must be construed as references to solicitors.
Though the position of Attorney-General persists.
Disclaimer: This article first appeared on Wikipedia.