January 7, 2013

Attorneys, lawyers, etc.

My current research is on terminology for attorneys.  Because each American state or other jurisdiction has a "unified bar," all legal practitioners are called by the same term.  Most commonly, Americans use lawyer or attorney, or the more lengthy attorney-at-law.  They might be called counsel for the purposes of elegant variation, or be named counsellor-at-law in their own letterheads or on the outside of an envelope.  Attorney-at-law, sounding fancy, is used this way too.")  Lawyers can be called advocates too, but so can non-lawyers.  I favor "lawyer," because it's a very plain word and it means what it says.

England does not have a unified bar.  There are solicitors, who do most of the day-to-day practice like contracts, wills, and so on; for court cases they will hire barristers to represent their clients in court.  In the research for a paper I'm doing, I've uncovered a whole catalog of less-well-known names for practitioners of law.  These are mostly from Bouvier's Law Dictionary (2d ed. 1843 and "Third Revision," 1914) and from Noah Webster's dictionaries of 1828 and later.

Advocate--a general name for a lawyer, but in Scotland the members of the profession are so called and are members of the Faculty of Advocates.

Apprentice: According to Frederic W. Maitland barristers were called "apprentices" in the middle ages.

"The bar"--used to refer to lawyers while they are pleading in court, referring to their proximity to the physical "bar" that separates judge and lawyers from spectators in the courtroom.

Civilian--a prominent expert in the civil law (there's apparently no "commoners" practicing the common law).

Doctor--presumably the title for a member of the College of Doctors, practitioners before British ecclesiastical courts in the eighteenth century.  Having the juris doctor degree doesn't really entitle an American attorney to be called "doctor."   You might say he'd be laughed out of court if he assumed the title.

Esquire--a very fraught title, placed after a lawyer's name when addressing him in writing or, more frequently nowadays, used by the lawyer himself. 

Jurist--an academic who holds forth on the law; a judge; or, perhaps more jokingly, any lawyer.

Notary--a professional in civil law jurisdictions who handles various matters focused on legal documents, especially in real estate.

Proctor--a practitioner in ecclesiastical courts.

Serjeant-at-law--an earlier term for barrister.

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