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June 13, 2008


Is this even remotely controversial? How can you be an attorney or lawyer if you are not licensed to practice the profession anywhere? If you just have a J.D., then you're just another person with an advanced degree.


The California Rules of Professional Conduct define a "lawyer" as someone who is admitted to practice law. See CRPC 1-100(B)(3).

And holding yourself out as entitled to practice law if you're not admitted is unauthorized practice of law. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code sec. 6126(a).

So I'd say that calling yourself a lawyer when you have a JD but are not admitted, anywhere, violates the law.

scott t.

the real titles for lawyers are not: MR., it should be attorney or ATTY. and not MR., the title MR. is too low and its only for those who do not have any professional title, since lawyers are noble professions, it deserves a title just like doctors, so it should be for example: ATTY. MICHAEL EHLINE and not MR.MICHAEL EHLINE

Bill O'Connell

The June 13 comment is exactly right: a law school grad who is not admitted is not a lawyer.
More obscure point: Bigeleisen is correct that an attorney and a lawyer are two different things, and his definitions are correct. As language evolves, fine distinctions are lost, and within a few years (if not already), anyone who tries to make the distinction (like me)will be dismissed as a pendant. Before someone changes it, take a look at the next piece of correspondence you get from Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher. Last I looked, they were the only major law firm whose letterhead said "Lawyers" (modest, and thus very cool)rather than the grandiose "Attorneys at Law."
Related issue (which I raise with trepidation, because it relates in part to a gender distinction): I was taught back in the dark ages to address a male lawyer as _________,Esq. and to address a female lawyer as Atty ______. I was told that this was not a demeaning distinction, but simply a gender distinction, i.e., Esq. was as clearly masculine as Mr. Was that correct then? Now? Women lawyers are often addressed as ___________, Esq. nowadays, and I do not know whether that is correct. Related point: I was also told back in the dark ages that ,Esq. was supposed to be a manner of respectful address to be used by someone else addressing the lawyer, not by the lawyer him/herself. My using the title William O'Connell, Esq. was supposed to be as silly as a baseball player using the title Duane Kuiper, Famed Home Run Hitter. By this standard, only Attorney William O'Connell is correct if I am referring to myself. Agree? Disagree?


Bryan Garner (master lexicographer + JD (not sure if he's licensed to practice)) says that the practice of appending "Esq." to women attorneys' names is "perfectly acceptable and extremely common." He also says that precisionists who are bothered by it should pretend that "Esq." stands for "Esquiress," a term recorded in the OED from 1596.

Also, Bill O. is right, one should never refer to oneself as "Esq."

Mitch Chyette

It has always been my understanding that "lawyer" describes the profession, while "attorney" describes the relationship between persons. I am a lawyer, I am my client's attorney. I can be an "attorney at law" or an "attorney in fact."

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