So, you call yourself a "lawyer?"

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by worthingco, Nov 5, 2006.

  1. worthingco

    worthingco New Member

    I've come across law degree holders who consider themselves "lawyers" even though they are not members of a law society or bar. In other words, they don't practise the law. I'm particularly curious to hear from law degree holders on this forum concerning this issue.

    Does simply having a law degree make one a "lawyer?"
  2. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    It seems reasonable to suggest that your occupational title should reflect your occupation. But if so, then your academic degrees are not relevance, since it is obvious that your occupation is not necessarily related to your academic degrees.

    For example, I wouldn't grant Geraldo Rivera the title of "lawyer", although he holds a perfectly valid law degree.

    On the other hand, I would grant this title to the Hon. Marilyn Skoglund, Associate Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, although she qualified for the Bar by apprenticeship and never attended law school.

    Since the practice of law is heavily regulated by the states, there are probably varying rules regarding who can legally claim the "lawyer" title. It wouldn't surprise me if membership in the State Bar is required in some states.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2006
  3. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Incidentally, this is also an issue with "engineers".

    For example, there are tens of thousands of working engineers in California holding degrees in "electrical engineering". But most of them cannot legally use the title of "electrical engineer". In California, only a licensed Professional Electrical Engineer can use the "electrical engineer" title, and the majority of EEs are unlicensed.

    On the other hand, it is possible (though unusual) to qualify for a California PE license without an engineering degree. Some licensed EEs, who are allowed to use the EE title, do not hold EE degrees.

    So in California, you can hold an EE degree but not be an "EE". Or you can be an "EE" but not hold an EE degree.
  4. jtaee1920

    jtaee1920 New Member

    This could be asked for a number of occupations. Does simply having an MD make one a "Medical Doctor"?

    (not that earning a degree in medicine or law is really all that "simple")
  5. PsychPhD

    PsychPhD New Member

    It is a matter of state law

    My understanding for licensed professions is that the state licensing law determines whether or not an individual can use a particular title.

    For example, in psychology, most states do not regulate the titles of "counselor" or "therapist" but one must be a licensed psychologist (by meeting statutory requirements) to use the title "psychologist" -- it is what is known as a "protected title."
  6. Legal Educator

    Legal Educator New Member

    Pass the Bar First

    A "Lawyer" or "Attorney" (in America) is someone who has gone to law school, and then taken and passed the Bar Exam in at least one state, and then admitted to the bar. A person who has not been admitted to the bar may not legally refer to him or herself as a lawyer. Having a degree in law is not the same thing as being a lawyer. A person who has not been admitted to the bar may not legally practice law; in fact such practice would be criminal in every state.
  7. jtaee1920

    jtaee1920 New Member

  8. Dude

    Dude New Member

    Re: Pass the Bar First

    While true in the VAST majority... there are a VERY few exceptions where lawyers did not go to law school.
  9. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Yes, just as there (some) Professional Engineers who never went to engineering school. The following generalizations are probably valid for any licensed occupation:

    - If you have a relevant academic degree, and also hold the relevant professional license, then you can use the occupational title.

    - If you have the degree, but not the license, then you may be restricted from the title. (This is quite common in engineering, less common in law. But it must affect some law graduates, since bar pass rates are obviously not 100%.)

    - If you have the license, but not the degree, then you get to use the title. (This is uncommon in most professional fields, but does occur in both law and engineering, at least in some states).
  10. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    Re: Pass the Bar First

    Is there a technically correct distinction between passing the Bar and being admitted to the Bar?
  11. Legal Educator

    Legal Educator New Member

    Passing the Bar

    Indeed, there is a clear distinction between passing the bar exam and being admitted to the Bar.

    A person can pass the exam, but still not be admitted for a few reasons. A prior felony conviction is one of them.

    Lawyers are admitted to the bar in a solemn ceremony usually administered by a senior judge.

    Admission to the Federal Bench is more subtle...done by mail.

    But until you are formally admitted, you can not practice law legally.
  12. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Example: neo-Nazi Matt Hale graduated from Southern Illinois University law school in 1998, passed the Illinois Bar Exam that year, and was then denied a law license on the basis of moral character, because of his explicit beliefs in racial discrimination. At that time he did not have a criminal record (he does now).

Share This Page