attorney

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Attorney

A person admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction and authorized to perform criminal and civil legal functions on behalf of clients. These functions include providing legal counsel, drafting legal documents, and representing clients before courts, administrative agencies, and other tribunals.

Unless a contrary meaning is plainly indicated this term is synonymous with "attorney at law,""lawyer," or "counselor at law."

In order to become an attorney, a person must obtain a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school, although this requirement may vary in some states. Attendance at law school usually entails three years of full-time study, or four years of study in evening classes, where available. A bachelor's degree is generally a prerequisite to admission to law school.

With few exceptions, a person must pass the bar examination of that state in order to be admitted to practice law there. After passing a bar examination and practicing law for a specified period, a person may be admitted to the bars of other states, pursuant to their own court rules.

Although an attorney might be required by law to render some services Pro Bono (free of charge), the individual is ordinarily entitled to compensation for the reasonable value of services performed. He or she has a right, called an attorney's lien, to retain the property or money of a client until payment has been received for all services. An attorney must generally obtain court permission to discontinue representation of a client during the course of a trial or criminal proceedings.

Certain discourse between attorney and client is protected by the Attorney-Client Privilege. In the law of evidence, the client can refuse to divulge and prohibit anyone else from disclosing confidential communications transmitted to and from the attorney. Notwithstanding, attorneys are permitted to make general (non-privileged) pre-trial statements to the press if there is a "reasonable likelihood" that the statements will not interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice (In re Morrissey, 168 F.3d 134 [4th Cir. 1999]).

Cross-references

Attorney-Client Privilege; Attorney Misconduct; Continuing Legal Education; Legal Education; Legal Representation; Right to Counsel.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

attorney

n. 1) an agent or someone authorized to act for another. 2) a person who has been qualified by a state or Federal court to provide legal services, including appearing in court. Each state has a bar examination which is a qualifying test to practice law. The examinations vary in difficulty, but cannot be taken until the applicant is a graduate of an accredited law school (with a three-year minimum course of study) or has fulfilled extensive other training. Passage of the bar examination qualifies the attorney for that state only and for the Federal Courts located in that state (and other Federal courts upon request). Some states will accept attorneys from other states, but many will not grant this "reciprocity" and require at least a basic test for out-of-state attorneys. Attorneys from other states may practice in a limited way, but cannot appear (except on a single case with court permission) in state courts (but in federal courts). Graduation from law school does not make one an attorney. There are also patent attorneys who can practice in Federal patent courts only and have both legal and engineering training. Most patent attorneys today are regular attorneys who specialize. (See: attorney at law, court, reciprocity)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

attorney

a person legally appointed or empowered to act for another. More specifically, in the USA, a lawyer qualified to represent clients in legal proceedings; sometimes attorney-at-law. Sometimes used by politicians as short for ATTORNEY GENERAL.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

ATTORNEY. One who acts for another by virtue of an appointment by the latter. Attorneys are of various kinds.
     2. Attorney in fact. A person to whom the authority of another, who is called the constituent, is by him lawfully delegated. This term is employed to designate persons who act under a special agency, or a special letter of attorney, so that they are appointed in factum, for the deed, or special act to be performed; but in a more extended sense it includes all other agents employed in any business, or to do any act or acts in pais for another. Bac. Ab. Attorney; Story, Ag. Sec. 25.
     3. All persons who are capable of acting for themselves, and even those who are disqualified from acting in their own capacity, if they have sufficient understanding, as infants of a proper age and femes coverts, may act as attorneys of others. Co. Litt. 52, a; 1 Esp. Cas. 142; 2 Esp. Cas. 511 2 Stark. Cas. N. P. 204.
     4. The form of his appointment is by letter of attorney. (q.v.)
     5. The object of his appointment is the transaction of some business of the constituent by the attorney.
     6. The attorney is bound to act with due diligence after having accepted the employment, and in the end, to 'render an account to his principal of the acts which be has performed for him. Vide Agency; Agent; Authority; and Principal.
     7. Attorney at law. An officer in a court of justice, who is employed by a party in a cause to manage the same for him. Appearance by an attorney has been allowed in England, from the time of the earliest records of the courts of that country. They are mentioned in Glanville, Bracton, Fleta, and Britton; and a case turning upon the party's right to appear by attorney, is reported, B. 17 Edw. III., p. 8, case 23. In France such appearances were first allowed by letters patent of Philip le Bel, A. D. 1290. 1 Fournel, Hist. des Avocats, 42; 43, 92, 93 2 Loisel Coutumes, 14, 15. It results from the nature of their functions, and of their duties, as well to the court as to the client, that no one can, even by consent, be the attorney of both the litigating parties, in the same controversy. Farresly, 47.
     8. In some courts, as in the supreme court of the United States, advocates are divided into counsellors at law, (q.v.) and attorneys. The business of attorneys is to carry on the practical and formal parts of the suit. 1 Kent, Com. 307. See as to their powers, 2 Supp. to Ves. Jr. 241, 254; 3 Chit. Bl. 23, 338; Bac. Ab. h.t.; 3 Penna. R. 74; 3 Wils. 374; 16 S. & R. 368; 14 S. & R. 307; 7 Cranch, 452; 1 Penna. R. 264. In general, the agreement of an attorney at law, within the scope of his employment, binds his client; 1 Salk. 86 as to amend the record, 1 Binn. 75; to refer a cause 1 Dall. Rep. 164; 6 Binn. 101; 7 Cranch, 436; 3 Taunt. 486; not to sue out a writ of error; 1 H. Bl. 21, 23 2 Saund. 71, a, b; 1 Term Rep. 388 to strike off a non pros; 1 Bin. 469-70 to waive a judgment by default; 1 Arcb. Pr. 26; and this is but just and reasonable. 2 Bin. 161. But the act must be within the scope of their authority. They cannot, for example, without special authority, purchase lands for the client at sheriff's sale. 2 S. & R. 21 11 Johns. 464.
     9. The name of attorney is given to those officers who practice in courts of common law; solicitors, in courts. of equity and proctors, in courts of admiralty, and in the English ecclesiastical courts.
    10. The principal duties of an attorney are, 1. To be true to the court and to his client; 2. To manage the business of his client with care, skill and integrity. 4 Burr. 2061 1 B. & A. 202; 2 Wils. 325; 1 Bing. R. 347; 3. To keep his client informed as to the state of his business; 4. To keep his secrets confided to him as such. See Client Confidential Communication.
    11. For a violation of his duties, an action will in general lie; 2 Greenl. Ev. Sec. 145, 146; and, in some cases, he may be punished by an attachment. His rights are, to be justly compensated for his services. Vide 1 Keen's R. 668; Client; Counsellor at law.
    12. Attorney-general of the United States, is an officer appointed by the president. He should be learned in the law, and be sworn or affirmed to a faithful execution of his office.
    13. His duties are to prosecute and conduct all suits in the supreme court, in which the United States shall be concerned; and give his advice upon questions of law, when required by the president, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching matters that may Concern their departments. Act of 24th Sept. 1789.
    14. His salary is three thousand five hundred dollars per annum, and he is allowed one clerk, whose compensation shall not exceed one thousand dollars per annum. Act 20th Feb. 1819, 3 Story's Laws, 1720, and Act 20th April, 1818, s. 6, 3 Story's Laws, 1693. By the act of May 9, 1830, 4 Sharsw. cont. of Story, L. U. S. 2208, Sec. 10, his salary is increased five hundred dollars per annum.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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