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What’s the difference between “Attorney” and “Lawyer”? Well, in Ontario, people who have studied law in law school, passed the Bar Admissions test, and have been called to the Bar of Ontario are called different things to different people. The Law Society of Upper Canada calls them licensees. In court, judges call them counsel. Their clients call them their lawyer or attorney. And they call themselves barristers and solicitors. So what do all of these things mean? Basically, they all come to mean the same thing, with a few minor comments about the differences between a barrister and solicitor.
A lawyer is the normal thing we call persons learned in the law and licensed to practice law. An attorney works too, but this is more Americanized for some reason (at least in my humble experience). Counsel means the same thing as a lawyer or attorney, but is used less often – lest some people confuse the lawyer with some type of counselor or consultant (unless the term legal counsel is used).
The distinction between a barrister and a solicitor is interesting and worthy of a few words here. Toronto attorneys are both capable of calling themselves barristers and solicitors. In other jurisdictions, lawyers may be one or the other but not both. The word barrister, in its deep-rooted English traditions, comes from those who are called to bar and who advocate for their clients before courts and tribunals. This is to be distinguished from solicitors, who typically are engaged by clients to do contractual work and facilitate transactions (e.g. business, real estate, wills and estates, family, etc.).
For more information about the differences between barristers and solicitors, check out what Wikipedia has to say.