‘Attorney’ is often used as a synonym for ‘lawyer’ but may also a person who holds the ‘power of
attorney’ in relation to another, or the principal legal advisor to the government. Each of these have
their own terminology that differentiates their purposes.
An Attorney at Law is for a practicing lawyer in some parts of the world including Quebec,
South Africa, the US and Sri Lanka. In the United Kingdom the term was officially replaced by
‘Solicitor’ in 1873. An Attorney at Law must have legally-defined qualifications and might specialize
as providing either criminal or civil services. A criminal lawyer defends his or her client from the
government, while a civil lawyer works with disputes leveled by non-government persons.
An Attorney-in-Fact is someone who hold written authorization to represent someone else’s best
interests with regard to private and business affairs. Commonly an attorney in this category would
be described as someone who holds ‘Power of Attorney’, and would be involved in making medical
decisions for a family member who is unable to make such decisions for themselves, as with
Dementia Patients or those with neurological or severe learning difficulties. This person would also
be charged with decisions made regarding a coma, or other life-limiting condition that causes the
affected party to be unable to communicate their wishes.
For businesses, a lawyer can be hired to handle any disputes regarding copyright, zoning compliance
and liability. Often, a small business will only hire an attorney when required to deal with disputes, however larger companies and those that are more cautious will always engage a lawyer early on. By having a business attorney on hand, the company can avoid having such disputes arise in the first place.