Paralegals, Lawyers, Attorneys: Are they Identical?


Paralegals, Lawyers, Attorneys- all of them are people who deal with legal procedures at different stages of the patent prosecution process. They hold deep and minute technical differences from their professional role, experience, the way of work, etc. It is also stated in an International Legal Magazine that they are often misunderstood and used interchangeably by some professionals. Well! That clearly indicates the need to differentiate them. In this article, we will cover every aspect of the difference between the three most common yet misunderstood terms of the legal industry.

Paralegal’s Responsibility

Let’s consider an IP Paralegal to be subordinate under an Attorney. In more generic terms, Paralegals are people who hold knowledge of the law and serves as assistant to Attorneys. They can prepare briefing notes, highlight case decisions, prior precedents, case documentation, transcribe depositions and statements. They can also attend court proceedings.

To understand their work, let us consider the following examples :

  • Provide help to clients in purchasing land and selling finished properties
  • Provide support to clients in registering and defending trademarks
  • Prosecute people who have been cruel to animals as part of the RSPCA prosecutions team
  • Give immigration law guidance to clients while working for a paralegal law firm
  • Advise people on employment/housing issues


Paralegals Vs. Attorneys

Paralegals and Attorneys hold strong points of distinction regarding education and licensing. It is compulsory for Attorneys to hold a graduation degree from a law school. They also need to pass background screening and the bar exam conducted by the practicing state. After meeting all these requirements, the aspirants are sworn in as an Attorney. He/she needs to pay an annual fee to maintain the license. The Attorney thus becomes eligible for representing clients in all legal proceedings. Also, he can advise his clients for legal issues and perform independent activities with the law.

Paralegals do not require a certification or a degree depending upon the laws of the state.  In maximum cases, Paralegals are hired by Attorneys to help them out in legal aspects. They are mostly absorbed by Attorneys to perform research, create legal drafts, schedule meetings with clients.  Also, they don’t have a license. Thus they cannot advise or represent clients for legal proceedings. They cannot produce legitimate documents even under an Attorney’s approval.

Lawyers Vs. Attorneys

A lawyer is a professional who holds records of his knowledge through his attained law degrees. An attorney is a person who has been licensed to practice law and represent clients. There are government rules to distinguish these two profiles from each other. The person holding a license by the bar association will be referred to as ‘Attorneys.’ A person holding legal knowledge along with supporting college degrees are termed as ‘Lawyers.’

In the U.S., J.D. (Juris Doctor) will be added to the names of those who attended law school but do not actively practice in legal affairs.  While those holding license can call them Attorneys, with permission to add “Esq.” or “esquire” title to their names.

Also read: The Patent Search Firm

Paralegals Vs. Lawyers

Paralegals and Lawyers are similar in most of their duties towards the Law. However, they also hold a clear point of distinction. Both of them are responsible for doing research and preparing legal documents. Lawyers are thus superior from Paralegals both regarding education and fieldwork, so lawyers stand in the front to address the judge, jury or witnesses. Whereas, Paralegals mostly do the preparation works. These involve client meetings, reports making under the senior’s supervision (lawyer or an attorney). Also, only lawyers can set fees, provide legal advice, and sign legal documents.

Lawyers handle more complex matters such as murder trials, celebrity divorces etc. For a simple process, Paralegals are assigned to handle them. The Lawyers guide the Paralegals for a natural process.

Paralegals, Lawyers, and Attorneys are all different concerning their work profile, experience, education. Individually they constitute an important sector of our Legal industry.

Why choose us?

We, at Patent Drafting Catalyst provide services to patent attorneys. Our services include proofreading, docketing, end-to-end IDS management, document drafting, data verification.  We are providing quality-oriented services for the past eight years in the IP industry.

To know more about us, please visit our service page.

Some Interesting Blogs:

Intellectual Property (IP) Paralegal Facts

Patent Docketing Need in IP Lifecycle

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