In S01E03 of Better Call Saul, police catch Saul and he says he is an attorney. Then they have a look into his ID and say to themselves 'He is a lawyer'. Saul looks irritated by that saying and replies in a displeased manner 'Who's lawyer?!'

So, the question is, why could he be annoyed by people calling him a lawyer when he presents himself as an attorney? What's the difference?

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    Jimmy asks "Whose lawyer?" (not "Who's a lawyer?"). Jimmy asks this in a totally puzzled manner because he is not certain which person the police believe to be his client, Kettleman, who embezzled the money, or Nacho, who was intending to rip off Kettleman by stealing the embezzled cash from K's house.
    – TRomano
    May 20, 2015 at 14:34
  • I am trying to understand spoken English better by watching series I like, and I suspect this is not the only thing I misunderstand :). Thanks for the explanation, makes sense! May 20, 2015 at 17:54
  • possible duplicate of Why do we say "attorney at law" and what is the difference between attorney and lawyer? Which is itself a duplicate of another question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 20, 2015 at 18:34
  • See: blog.dictionary.com/lawyer-vs-attorney "Solicitor" and "barrister" are used in Australia. They're both lawyers, but different types. You can consider solicitors as the "officey" lawyers who do paperwork and interact with the client and barristers are the ones who argue the case in court. The solicitor can also go to the court, but cannot argue. I would suspect that an attorney is closest to a barrister in America and perhaps Saul thought being called a lawyer was suggesting he was a solicitor, which a barrister would probably be offended by.
    – Dog Lover
    Apr 18, 2017 at 22:39
  • NB: barristers (in England and Wales) are not attorneys at law. This is a very old distinction, lost in the USA where the profession is fused. Oct 31, 2018 at 18:40

2 Answers 2


Probably because:

All attorneys are lawyers, but it is improper to say that all lawyers are attorneys.

  • Attorneys are also recognized as lawyers. Attorneys graduate from law school and they can also choose to practice law as a profession. However a potential attorney must pass the bar exam to be eligible to practice law within a specific jurisdiction. Apart from performing the basic functions of a lawyer, attorneys can also act as legal representatives for their clients. An attorney does not just interpret the law; he or she also applies his knowledge of the law to provide the needs of his client. Attorneys act as lawyers but not all lawyers can perform the work of attorneys.


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    I think this legalmatch distinction is bogus. americanbar.org/groups/public_education/public-information/…
    – TRomano
    May 20, 2015 at 14:06
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    I was going to answer in the opposite way. A lawyer is an "attorney at law" but there are other types of attorney.
    – GEdgar
    May 20, 2015 at 14:53
  • @TimRomano - lawyeredu.org/attorney-vs-lawyer.html
    – user66974
    May 20, 2015 at 15:00
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    @Josh61. The ABA website is the site of an official standards body. The lawyeredu.org site is not. The terms are used interchangeably. There is a distinction between those who merely hold law degrees and those who are licensed to practice law, but you won't find the terms lawyer and attorney consistently aligning with the one or the other status.
    – TRomano
    May 20, 2015 at 15:26
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    This answer (and its source) is incorrect. In all English-speaking countries, a lawyer is a person licensed to practice law. You have to be admitted to the bar in order to be a lawyer - a degree in law alone does not make you a lawyer. Apr 19, 2017 at 9:19

I believe I might be of assistance here. In the United States, a lawyer is generally considered a person who provides legal advice and appears in court. An attorney is considered to be exactly the same thing as a lawyer. In England, lawyers and attorneys are called barristers. There are myriad reasons for why two terms exist, but to be sure, there is a lot of misinformation out there which states that a lawyer is merely someone who has graduated from law school. This is incorrect.

In the United States, the terms "lawyer" and "attorney" are used interchangeably by the general public and attorneys alike. If you have graduated law school, but are not licensed to practice law, you are neither a lawyer nor an attorney and you cannot give legal advice. Providing legal advice without being licensed to practice law is a crime known as the "unauthorized practice of law." Indeed, even lawyers who are licensed to practice in one state can be charged with the unauthorized practice of law for providing advice to a person in a different state in which that lawyer is not licensed to practice.

As I previously mentioned, the terms "lawyer" and "attorney" are used interchangeably by lawyers and laypersons alike. By way of example, I am an attorney and I refer to myself as a Fairfax criminal defense attorney under some circumstances. However, when dealing with providing representation for a specific crime, I would refer to myself as a Fairfax marijuana lawyer. The interchangeable phraseology is never really dependent upon anything other than the term the writer or speaker feels like using in that particular moment. What I have found is that most laypersons, when conducting an internet search, will look for the term "lawyer."

At the end of the day, it does not matter whether you use the term lawyer or attorney. They are both understood to mean the exact same thing - a person licensed to practice law. Whether they are actually engaged in its practice is not relevant. All that matters is they have the ability to practice as a result of passing the bar exam.

  • But someone can have "power of attorney" without having been to law school and without having passed the "bar".
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 18, 2017 at 21:45

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