There are various reasons you may need the assistance of a legal professional who specializes in family law. They can help you if you ever go through a divorce. They can also help you negotiate pre or post-nuptial agreements or divide property in the event of a separation. Moreover, their services may play an important role in a child custody case involving your family.

Those are just two examples. Regardless, if you ever do require these services, you might wonder whether you should hire a family lawyer or a family law attorney. Many people use these two terms interchangeably. People think of lawyers and attorneys as professionals who can offer them legal advice and/or represent them in court.

Historically, the two words had different meanings. This guide will help you understand the difference between these two common terms.

Family Law Lawyer vs. Family Law Attorney: What’s the Difference?

Historically, lawyers were professionals who graduated from law school but stopped short of becoming licensed. These professionals could offer limited legal guidance to others. They might also have used their knowledge of the law in fields such as journalism, medicine, and more.

Traditionally, lawyers did not take or pass the bar exam in their state. This means they could not be an attorney. An attorney was someone who had received a legal education and became licensed to practice law in the courts of their jurisdiction.

Today, the terms lawyer and attorney typically refer to the same thing: a person who is authorized to practice law and render legal advice. An attorney needs to fulfill certain requirements to practice law. If someone has merely finished law school, that does not mean they are qualified to serve your needs. In fact, they may not be eligible to represent you in court. 

Requirements for Becoming an Attorney

Passing the bar exam and being licensed are the two main requirements a law school graduate must meet to become an attorney. 

Other requirements in Georgia include the following:

  • Completing pre-law undergraduate work and graduating from an ABA-approved law school
  • Receiving a Certification of Fitness to practice law (this happens before taking the bar exam)
  • Passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam
  • Being admitted to the Georgia Bar

These standards are rigorous. This is for the good of clients. It is extremely important that anyone providing a client with legal counsel be qualified to practice law.

Take heart. You can schedule a consultation with a legal expert you’ve found through a Google search regardless of whether their website refers to them as a lawyer or attorney. However, you still need to be confident you are consulting with legal professionals who are licensed to practice law in Georgia. Luckily, determining whether someone is a licensed attorney is fairly easy in Georgia.

The Georgia State Bar maintains an online database featuring the names of attorneys licensed to practice law here. State Bars prosecute professional misconduct and protect against the unauthorized practice of law. All attorneys in a state must be registered with their state bar to practice law. They must also obey professional ethical rules and seek continuing education to stay abreast of changing laws and legal trends. 

You can easily use the State Bar’s tool to confirm whether an attorney is licensed to practice law. It will also provide you with information on their discipline history, should they have any. Licensure to practice law is the bare minimum you want of your lawyer or attorney. You should also make sure they have experience in your type of case or dispute.

For more information, call our family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to us online by visiting our contact us page today.