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Lawyer vs. Advocate: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 21, 2023
A lawyer is a general term for someone trained in law, while an advocate is a lawyer who represents clients in court.

Key Differences

A lawyer refers to anyone who has obtained a legal degree and is qualified to give legal advice. In many countries, becoming a lawyer requires formal education and passing the bar exam. An advocate, on the other hand, generally refers to a lawyer who stands in court to represent or defend a client. In some jurisdictions, every lawyer is also an advocate, but not every advocate is necessarily a lawyer.
Lawyers can specialize in numerous fields, from tax law to intellectual property. They can draft contracts, help in legal documentation, or give general legal counsel. Advocates, specifically, focus on pleading cases before the judiciary. Their primary responsibility is to present facts and argue on behalf of their client in court.
In the realm of law, a lawyer can act as an intermediary, negotiating settlements or handling out-of-court matters. An advocate, by virtue of their role, generally engages more directly in confrontations, especially during trials and court proceedings.
To become a lawyer, one must typically complete a degree in law and then pass relevant exams or certifications. To become an advocate, there may be additional requirements, such as specific training or a certain number of years of practice. While all advocates can be termed lawyers due to their legal training, not all lawyers actively advocate in court.

Comparison Chart


A person trained and qualified in law
A lawyer who represents clients in court


Can specialize in various legal fields
Primarily focused on court representations


Gives legal advice, drafts documents, negotiates
Represents or defends clients in court


Requires a degree in law and passing a bar exam
May need additional training or experience to represent in court


All advocates are lawyers
Not all lawyers are advocates

Lawyer and Advocate Definitions


A person who practices or studies law.
She consulted her lawyer before signing the agreement.


Someone who defends or supports another.
As an advocate, he always stood by his client's side.


A representative in legal matters.
His lawyer ensured the contract was favorable.


A lawyer who pleads cases in court.
The advocate presented compelling evidence during the trial.


An individual who gives legal advice.
The lawyer suggested they avoid litigation.


A person who publicly supports a cause.
She was a strong advocate for animal rights.


Someone qualified to represent clients.
The lawyer prepared a strong defense for the case.


A promoter of a particular cause or policy.
He was an advocate for clean energy solutions.


A professional trained in the law.
She became a lawyer after passing the bar exam.


A representative in legal confrontations.
The victim's advocate argued for a stricter sentence.


One whose profession is to give legal advice and assistance to clients and represent them in court or in other legal matters.


To speak, plead, or argue in favor of
Advocate a vegan diet.


A professional person with a graduate law degree that qualifies for legal work (such as Juris Doctor)


Usage Problem To act as an advocate
Advocated for her patients.
Advocated for more stringent crime laws.


What's the primary role of an advocate?

An advocate's main role is to represent and defend their client in court.

Is every advocate a lawyer?

Yes, all advocates have legal training, making them lawyers.

Can the term advocate be used outside the legal context?

Yes, "advocate" can also refer to someone who supports a particular cause.

What's the main distinction between a lawyer and an advocate?

A lawyer is broadly trained in law, while an advocate represents clients in court.

How do lawyers and advocates charge for their services?

They may charge hourly rates, flat fees, or contingency fees, depending on the case.

Can a lawyer act as an advocate?

Yes, if they meet the requirements to represent clients in court.

Do lawyers always go to court?

No, many lawyers give advice, draft documents, or negotiate without appearing in court.

Why would someone need an advocate instead of a general lawyer?

If someone is going to court, they'd typically need an advocate to represent them.

Are barristers and advocates the same?

In some jurisdictions, yes. "Barrister" is another term for an advocate in places like the UK.

Can a lawyer provide services outside their country?

Generally, they'd need to understand and be certified in the local jurisdiction.

Can an advocate specialize in a specific type of law?

Yes, advocates can specialize, such as in criminal law or civil litigation.

Do all countries differentiate between lawyers and advocates?

No, the distinction and terminology vary by jurisdiction.

How long does it take to become a lawyer?

Typically, after a bachelor's degree, it takes three years of law school in the U.S.

Is courtroom experience essential for an advocate?

Yes, advocates need to be adept at representing clients in court settings.

What qualities make a good lawyer or advocate?

Strong analytical skills, effective communication, and ethical judgment are essential.

How can one transition from being a lawyer to an advocate?

It may involve additional training, certifications, or meeting specific experience criteria.

Do advocates need a special license?

In many jurisdictions, advocates need a specific license or certification to represent in court.

What's more important for an advocate: experience or education?

Both are crucial, but experience is often vital for courtroom efficacy.

How do lawyers and advocates update their knowledge?

They often attend continuing legal education (CLE) courses or seminars.

Are the terms "lawyer" and "attorney" interchangeable?

In American English, they are often used interchangeably.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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