Mark W. Mathys | February 5, 2023 | Personal Injury
Most people assume that the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” can be used interchangeably. However, an attorney and a lawyer are technically different. While all attorneys are lawyers, not all lawyers are attorneys. Both lawyers and attorneys have graduated from law school, but attorneys passed the bar exam and have a license to practice law.
If you’re looking for legal representation, make sure you hire an attorney that is fully qualified to represent you.
Lawyers Have Graduated From an Accredited Law School
All lawyers graduate from an accredited law school. Law schools are accredited by the American Bar Association (“ABA”). Accredited law schools have certain admission and educational requirements. They provide access to legal and educational resources and hire qualified professors.
Accreditation distinguishes legitimate from illegitimate law schools and ensures that all lawyers receive a similar education. Once a lawyer graduates from law school, they receive a Juris Doctor degree. This is the “J.D.” that you may see at the end of a lawyer’s signature.
Attorneys Have Passed the Bar Exam and Are Licensed To Practice Law
Once a lawyer graduates from law school, there are a few more steps before they become an attorney. In Illinois, a lawyer must pass the bar examination and professional responsibility exam and apply for a license before they can give legal advice and appear in court. If they don’t follow this rule, they can be fined up to $5,000 under the Illinois Attorney Act.
Passing the Bar Exam
The Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar administers the bar examination for lawyers who want to become attorneys in IL. The bar exam consists of multiple-choice and written sections. It tests many subjects, including:
- Business Associations
- Civil Procedure
- Conflicts of Law
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law & Procedure
- Family Law
- Real Property Law
- Secured Transactions
- Trusts & Estates
Passing the Professional Responsibility Exam
Becoming an attorney isn’t just about understanding the law. Before getting a license, lawyers must pass a test on the rules of professional responsibility.
The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct govern the way attorneys do business. It includes rules on client confidentiality, charging fees, and conflicts of interest. If an attorney violates these rules, they can lose their license.
Character and Fitness Examination
After passing both tests, a lawyer can apply to become a member of the state bar. This includes passing a character and fitness test before getting a license.
Character and fitness is an in-depth examination of a lawyer’s background. This includes past employment, education, residences, criminal and arrest record, and prior bar admissions. We rely on this to make sure that lawyers are upstanding citizens of the community and don’t have any skeletons in their closets, so to speak.
Licensed by the State Bar
If a lawyer passes character and fitness, they are admitted to the state bar and given a license. At this point, they become an attorney and can practice law. This means representing clients in court and providing legal advice to the general community.
If you have questions about whether or not a lawyer is an attorney, you can search for all of the attorneys who are admitted to practice law in Illinois.
Continuing Legal Education Requirements
Attorneys must pay dues to the state bar association and keep up to date on the law to maintain their license. This means taking Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) courses.
Most attorneys in Illinois must complete 30 hours of ongoing learning every two years to maintain an active license. Six of these hours must be on the topic of professional responsibility. Usually, attorneys choose to deepen their knowledge in the area of law that they practice. CLEs give their clients confidence that attorneys are up-to-date, even as laws and practices change over time.