There are a number of specialties within the legal profession, and sometimes this can be confusing to laypersons. Below are the professional differences between two of the most referenced legal specialists, lawyers and legal advocates.
Before practicing law, which requires licensure, an aspiring lawyer must receive an undergraduate bachelor of arts degree. Recommended majors include English, history, political science, or some other form of government studies. Before entering law school, a student must complete and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This is a test in which a high score can affect the quality of schooling one receives. As a result, many students take the LSAT multiple times to increase their chances of getting into a good law school, even if they pass it on the first try.
Once in law school, students study contracts, constitutional law, legal writing, and property law, among many other topics. Students also practice representing clients at trial, by taking part in “moot courts” or mock trial exercises. Law school generally takes three years, and before graduating, students must take a bar exam, which varies from state to state. If passed, the new lawyer is issued a license to practice law in the state where the exam was held. Lawyers may take this exam in more than one state. Once licensed, lawyers may write and review documents including contracts, give business and financial advice, represent clients in personal and criminal matters, and write environmental policy, among many other career options.
Advocates are individuals working within the legal profession whose job is to advance the rights of their clients. An advocate may or may not be a licensed attorney. Many advocates have had some legal training, or are law students. Advocates represent everyone from the victims of crimes to individuals caught up in property disputes. While most advocates don’t have the licensure to represent a client in a formal trial court, they often assist attorneys who can, by preparing paperwork and doing research, among other jobs.
Differences And Similarities
Most advocates lack the education and licensure that would allow them to represent a client in trial court, or in some other formal legal matters. But because of the training and legal experience that they do have, advocates are permitted to represent clients in lesser actions, such as mediation. Here, opposing parties try to find legal resolution to an issue without having to resort to litigation and possible trial. Given the backlog of most legal systems, more and more parties, both corporate and private, are being encouraged to try to resolves disputes through advocate enabled mediation, instead.
Jay Alan Sekulow is an American attorney and Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ).