Yesterday we heard from legal ethics experts about whether Elizabeth Wurtzel’s referring to herself as a “lawyer,” despite not having passed the bar yet, could get her in trouble. The two we consulted, Professors Steven Lubet and Stephen Gillers, did not see it as a big deal.
There’s an interesting follow-up over at Gawker, which obtained the following comment from La Wurtzel herself:
This is my understanding: if you graduate from law school/receive a JD, you are a lawyer; if you are licensed, you are an attorney. That’s what I’ve always been told.
Not too many nice things to say about the Bar Exam. Every year, some very gifted people fail it (Hillary Clinton, Kathleen Sullivan of Stanford Law School)–and every year, a lot of real idiots pass it. Hard to know what to make of that
Regarding Wurtzel’s understanding of the difference between the terms “lawyer” and “attorney,” other folks have been told that too. See the comments to this post from last year on the subject.
But there is disagreement. Read more, and take a READER POLL, after the jump.
Other commenters on our “lawyer” vs. “attorney” post from last year, as well as some of the commenters on the most recent Gawker post, say that if you haven’t been admitted to the bar, you shouldn’t call yourself a “lawyer” OR an “attorney.” We certainly recommend erring on the side of caution in this regard and avoiding both terms.
One final observation. As Gawker notes, Wurtzel has also referred to herself as “a practicing attorney” on occasion (e.g., in this Elle piece). If she’s going to rely on the distinction between “lawyer” and “attorney,” then she should be scrupulous in not referring to herself as an “attorney.”
You’ve heard enough from us. What do you think of the situation?