Esquire vs Attorney
Anyone who has chosen a legal profession, and has completed his higher studies in the field of law is designated as a lawyer which is a very generic term. A lawyer is a person trained in law and qualified enough to provide legal advice to his clients on all sorts of matters. However, there are two designations associated with legal profession namely attorney and esquire that are a source of confusion for many as they cannot differentiate between them. This article will highlight these differences to enable readers to find out whom to contact when one needs legal advice or needs services of, to stand in a court of law in front of a jury.
The word esquire does not indicate a degree. Neither is a title that is in vogue in courts of law. It is derived from the British system of peerage where esquire denotes a person above the rank of a gentleman but lower than a knight. Since there is no peerage system in US, the use of esquire as a title against one’s name is mostly symbolic, though it is commonly used by people in legal profession. So, it only signifies that a person is in legal profession, or that he is a lawyer though it does not convey the title of the person. The title attorney-at-law on the other hand specifically signifies that the person has had his training in legal affairs and is qualified to stand in a court of law to defend the case of his client.
So if you see Esq., which is short form of Esquire appended against the name of a lawyer, it only means that the title is honorific and has no legal standing. The title has been borrowed from Britain, where it is common for sheriffs, barristers and judges to use the short form against their names. In US, it simply signifies that the person belongs to the legal profession and is an attorney. However, it is not a synonym for attorney and the two words are not interchangeable. So if a person just sits in his chamber and gives advice on various matters he is basically a lawyer but the same person becomes an attorney when he stands up in a court of law to defend his client.
The use of the title of Esq. by some attorneys is meaningless in US as there is no system of peerage or rank in the country. On the other hand, an attorney means a legally qualified person who stands in a court of law to defend the interests of his client.