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A lawyer or attorney at law is an individual licensed by the state to advise clients in legal matters and represent them in courts of law and other legal agencies. Most countries today require professional law advisors in their juridical systems. Lawyers have many names in different countries -- including "advocate," "attorney," "barrister," "counselor," "civil law notary", and "solicitor" -- and many of these names indicate specific classes or ranks of jurists.

Increasingly, in the United States in particular, lawyers have taken over functions that used to be (and in some countries, still are) performed by other professionals, such as the notary public or even by non-professionals.

Colloquially, in the United States, lawyers are called "attorneys". In fact, almost anyone can be an attorney; strictly speaking, an attorney is similar to an agent, a person who has been formally empowered by someone else (a "principal") to act on behalf of the principal. Lawyers are "attorneys at law," authorised to plead cases on behalf of their clients.

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Lawyers in the U.S.

Ths United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (1 (http://www.bls.gov/oes/2001/oes231011.htm)) estimates that in 2001, there were 490,000 practicing lawyers in the U.S. Many states not only require that a person have an earned law degree from an A.B.A.-approved law school but also that the person have taken and passed a bar examination before being admitted to the bar of some state. It is frequently said that there are, per capita, more lawyers in the United States than in any other country. This statistic is misleading because it is difficult to compare numbers of law professionals between different legal systems because the roles of these professionals vary and some of the work that is done in the United States by a lawyer is performed by several different types of professionals in other countries.

A person who has a law degree but is not admitted to any bar is not a "lawyer" and is not allowed to use the title "Esquire" after their name (though they are allowed to use "Dr." before or "J.D." after), but this technicality is not enforced in some jurisdictions. Engaging in the kind of work customarily done by lawyers, without a valid, current license to do so, is the "unauthorized practice of law," and in some jurisdictions the UPL rules are very strict; persons have been successfully prosecuted for publishing do-it-yourself will forms and for representing special-education children in federal proceedings as specifically allowed by federal law, for example. Paradoxically, some jurisdictions will allow a non-lawyer to sit as a judge, in lower courts or in hearings by governmental agencies, even though a non-lawyer may not practice before these same courts.

Lawyers in the U.K. and common law countries

In Great Britain, Australia, and several other common law countries, there are generally two kinds of lawyers - solicitors and barristers. Solicitors may practice before lower courts, but their main (and traditionally only) work is outsides the courts, in such areas as legal advice, property conveyancing, wills and estates.

Barristers may practice before lower, superior and high courts. Traditionally (and still for major cases) both a solicitor (for advice) and a barrister (for representation) were required for legal representation before the courts.

Certain common law jurisdictions - for example, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, and certain states in Australia have a fused legal profession, whereby lawyers practice as both barristers and solicitors.

See also : Cross-examination


Disambiguation: There is also a Lawyer (fish)

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