Are they similar, but different at the same time (if so, how), or are they just terms that are used interchangeably to describe the same profession?
Oh, okay. Is one more formal than the other? For instance, is attorney to police officer as lawyer is to cop (I'm referring to terms not actual people)?
Construction / Development Lawyer
No difference, not even in usage. Neither one is considered more formal than the other, at least as far as I know.
In the United Kingdom and other countries - Canada for one - there are different names for attorneys. In the U.K. attorneys are either solicitors or barristers. I am not entirely sure on the difference, but solicitors would be similar to what most people in the U.S. think of as an attorney, and a barrister is generally hired by a solicitor to appear in court cases.
6 lawyers agree
Car / Auto Accident Lawyer
From a practical standpoint, no, there is no difference. They are interchangeable terms.
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Contracts / Agreements Lawyer
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Personal Injury Lawyer
They are often used interchangeably and sometimes in one sentence.
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3 lawyers agree
Technically no as per my colleagues -- however, I think the two terms get used differently when being attached to certain choice expletives in describing our profession at times! LOL.
My answer is not intended to be giving legal advice and this topic can be a complex area where the advice of a licensed attorney in your State should be obtained.
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State, Local, and Municipal Law Attorney
There actually is a slight difference between the terms "lawyer" and "attorney," although such distinctions are small and not commonly understood by the public, by lawyers or by attorneys. Generally speaking, a "lawyer" is any person with a juris doctor degree (a "law degree"), whether or not that person is actively engaged in the practice of law. For example, a person who graduated from law school, never passed the bar exam, and has become a full-time high school teacher is a lawyer, but is not an attorney.
An attorney is a lawyer who is licensed to practice law and who actually handles legal matters on behalf of clients. Therefore, not all lawyers are attorneys.
Furthermore, a "litigator" is an attorney who actually handles legal proceedings on behalf of clients in a court of law, as compared to transactional legal services (like drafting contracts) that do not require an appearance in the courrhouse. Not all attorneys are litigators.
But these are highly technical distinctions, so all the previous answers are also correct in saying there is no substantial difference between "lawyer" and "attorney" and that those words are almost always used to mean the same thing.