An attorney-at-law, also called an attorney or lawyer, is a legal professional who represents others in court and legal proceedings. A person with this title is qualified and licensed to defend and prosecute others in courtroom legal proceedings and provide legal advice to individuals, businesses and organizations. Attorneys also create contracts and written agreements their clients use to formalize legal matters.
Many people think of criminal lawyers when they hear the term attorney-at-law, but attorneys hold many other types of positions as well. For example, there are lawyers who specialize in legal matters that involve real estate and attorneys who focus on civil rights. Some attorneys specialize in bankruptcy or elder care while others focus on tax or environmental law. An attorney-at-law might even concentrate on helping people obtain monetary settlements when they’ve been injured or helping clients to divorce. These are just a few specialties an attorney-at-law may choose; there are even some who are more general in their practices, taking on cases that cover a wide range of legal categories.
Not only do attorneys differ in the various types of law they choose to pursue, but they also differ in how they decide to practice law. For example, there are trial attorneys-at-law who are very visible in court rooms as they attempt to win cases for their clients. There are also attorneys who work behind the scenes, researching past cases and legal rulings to help their clients stay abreast of the legalities of running a particular type of business, for example.
Becoming an attorney-at-law often requires years of training. In some countries, a prospective attorney must attend college followed by a graduate school legal program. The exact number of years required and the specifics of training may vary from country to country. Many countries also require prospective attorneys to pass a written examination before they can practice law.
Interestingly, the title given to a legal professional may vary, depending on the country in which he practices. In the United States, for example, a person may be called an attorney-at-law regardless of whether he represents clients in court or focuses on other aspects of the law. In the United Kingdom, however, legal professionals may be given other titles. If a lawyer does not represent clients in court, but does meet with them, handle their non-court-related needs and prepare legal documents, he may be called a solicitor. British barristers, on the other hand, handle court proceedings but may not meet with clients.