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Lawyer vs. Jurist — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Maham Liaqat — Updated on March 5, 2024
A lawyer is a professional who practices law, offering legal advice and representation, while a jurist is an expert in law, often involved in academic or judicial analysis.
Lawyer vs. Jurist — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Lawyer and Jurist


Key Differences

A lawyer, also known as an attorney, is primarily engaged in the practice of law, including advising clients on legal matters, representing them in court, and preparing legal documents. They are licensed professionals who advocate on behalf of their clients, aiming to protect their legal rights and ensure justice is served. On the other hand, a jurist is an individual who studies, teaches, and writes about law, and may include judges, legal scholars, and academic researchers. Jurists are experts in legal theory and often contribute to the development of laws and legal understanding through their analysis and writings.
While lawyers directly interact with the legal system by representing parties in legal disputes, negotiating settlements, and performing legal services, jurists typically engage with the law at a theoretical or academic level. Jurists might influence the legal system through scholarly works, legal commentary, and by serving in judicial capacities, thereby shaping the interpretation and evolution of law. In contrast, lawyers apply existing laws to specific cases, interpreting and maneuvering within the legal framework to serve their clients' interests.
The education and career paths of lawyers and jurists can overlap, as both require a deep understanding of the law. However, lawyers must pass a bar examination in their jurisdiction to practice law, focusing on practical legal training and skills necessary for client representation. Jurists, while also often highly educated in law, may pursue advanced degrees in legal theory or specific legal fields, contributing to the legal profession through teaching, research, and publication.
Lawyers play a crucial role in the administration of justice, directly affecting the outcomes of individual cases and the legal rights of parties involved. Jurists, whereas, influence the legal system more broadly through their contributions to legal theory, research, and by serving as judges, they help interpret and refine the laws that guide legal practice.
Despite the differences in their primary roles, both lawyers and jurists are essential to the functioning of the legal system. Lawyers ensure that individuals and entities have access to legal representation and justice, while jurists enhance the understanding, development, and application of the law through their scholarly and judicial work.

Comparison Chart

Primary Role

Practices law, representing clients
Studies and analyzes law, may include judges and scholars


Legal advice, court representation, document preparation
Academic research, teaching, judicial analysis

Interaction with Law

Direct, practical application
Theoretical, academic, or judicial involvement


Law degree, bar examination
Law degree, often advanced studies in legal theory


Affects individual cases and client rights
Influences legal system, theory, and law development

Compare with Definitions


Must pass a jurisdictional bar exam to practice.
After passing the bar, she became a licensed lawyer.


May include judges who interpret and apply laws.
As a jurist, he brought profound insights to the bench.


A professional practicing law, advising, and representing clients.
The lawyer defended her client in court.


Contributes to legal theory and scholarship.
Her work as a jurist influenced property law.


Engages in legal negotiations and settlements.
He hired a lawyer to negotiate his contract.


Affects legal understanding and development.
The jurist's theories were adopted in recent rulings.


Prepares legal documents and contracts.
Their lawyer drafted the will accurately.


Engages in teaching law at academic institutions.
The renowned jurist taught constitutional law.


Works directly with clients on legal matters.
The family lawyer handled their custody case.


An expert in law, often involved in academic research.
The jurist published a paper on copyright law.


A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying the law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.


A jurist is a person with expert knowledge of law; someone who analyses and comments on law. This person is usually a specialist legal scholar—not necessarily with a formal qualification in law or a legal practitioner, although in the United States the term "jurist" may be applied to a judge.


One whose profession is to give legal advice and assistance to clients and represent them in court or in other legal matters.


One who has thorough knowledge and experience of law, especially an eminent judge, lawyer, or legal scholar.


A professional person with a graduate law degree that qualifies for legal work (such as Juris Doctor)


(law) An expert of law or someone who researches jurisprudence.


A professional person authorized to practice law; conducts lawsuits or gives legal advice


A judge.


A legal scholar versed in civil law or the law of nations

Common Curiosities

Do all jurists have legal training?

While most jurists have extensive legal training, their focus is often more on theoretical or academic aspects of law rather than practical application.

Can a lawyer become a jurist?

Yes, many lawyers transition into roles as jurists, particularly in academic, judicial, or scholarly capacities.

What's the difference in education between a lawyer and a jurist?

Both typically hold law degrees, but lawyers must pass a bar exam to practice, whereas jurists may pursue further academic qualifications in legal theory or specific legal fields.

How do jurists contribute to legal education?

Jurists contribute to legal education by teaching at law schools, writing scholarly articles, and participating in legal debates and conferences.

How does a jurist influence the legal system?

Jurists influence the legal system through scholarly research, teaching, and sometimes judicial decisions, contributing to the evolution of legal thought and practice.

Is a judge considered a lawyer or a jurist?

Judges are considered jurists due to their role in interpreting and applying the law, though they are often experienced lawyers before becoming judges.

Can jurists practice law?

While jurists are knowledgeable about the law, only those who have passed a bar examination and hold a license can practice law as lawyers.

What is the primary focus of a lawyer's work?

The primary focus of a lawyer's work is to represent and advise clients on legal matters, ensuring their rights are protected within the legal system.

Why is the distinction between lawyers and jurists important?

Understanding the distinction helps clarify the roles and contributions of each in the legal system, emphasizing the practical application of law versus its study and interpretation.

How do lawyers and jurists work together?

Lawyers and jurists often collaborate through the legal process, with lawyers applying the law and jurists providing the theoretical foundation and interpretation that guide legal practice.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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