Ask Difference

Lawyer vs. Shyster — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Updated on May 12, 2024
Lawyers are licensed professionals who practice law ethically, whereas shysters are derogatory terms for those who use unscrupulous or fraudulent methods.
Lawyer vs. Shyster — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Lawyer and Shyster


Key Differences

A lawyer is a professional authorized to practice law; they must pass a bar exam and often hold a law degree, whereas a shyster is often characterized by deceitful, unethical, or unprofessional behavior in the legal sphere.
Lawyers are bound by ethical standards and codes of conduct established by legal associations, whereas shysters engage in practices that are misleading or harmful to clients.
In terms of reputation, lawyers are generally respected members of the legal community who uphold justice and advocate for clients, on the other hand, shysters are viewed negatively and are associated with taking advantage of people's legal problems.
The term lawyer applies universally to all individuals in the profession, regardless of their moral standing. In contrast, shyster is specifically used to describe someone perceived as disreputable within the legal field.
Lawyers often specialize in various fields of law, offering detailed and knowledgeable advice, whereas shysters may lack specialization and use their limited knowledge to exploit or deceive others.

Comparison Chart


A licensed legal professional
An unethical or unscrupulous person in law


Required to pass a bar exam
No formal licensing

Ethical Standards

Bound by professional codes of conduct
Often violates ethical standards


Generally respected
Generally viewed negatively

Practice Focus

Can specialize in various legal areas
Often lacks specialization, uses deceit

Compare with Definitions


A person trained and licensed to practice law.
She hired a lawyer to handle her divorce proceedings.


An unscrupulous practitioner in legal scenarios.
He was known as a shyster for manipulating legal loopholes.


An advocate or counselor in legal contexts.
As a lawyer, he has defended numerous high-profile cases.


A deceptive or dishonest lawyer.
The shyster tricked them into signing unfair contracts.


A professional who advises and represents others in legal matters.
The company's lawyer negotiated the contract.


A derogatory term for a lawyer lacking integrity.
The community regarded him as a shyster due to his past.


A barrister or solicitor in certain jurisdictions.
He became a lawyer after passing the bar exam.


A person who practices law in a disreputable or unethical manner.
The term shyster is often used to describe fraudulent attorneys.


A legal expert in litigation or law-related advice.
The family consulted a lawyer to understand their rights.


Someone involved in legal practices but considered morally corrupt.
As a shyster, his reputation in the legal community was poor.


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.


Shyster (possibly spelled like schiester, scheister, shiester, etc.) is a slang word for someone who acts in a disreputable, unethical, or unscrupulous way, especially in the practice of law, sometimes also politics or business.


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


An unethical, unscrupulous practitioner, especially of law.


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


Someone who acts in a disreputable, unethical, or unscrupulous way, especially in the practice of law and politics.


A professional person qualified (as by a law degree or bar exam) and authorized to practice law as an attorney-at-law, solicitor, advocate, barrister or equivalent, i.e. represent parties in lawsuits or trials and give legal advice.
A lawyer's time and advice are his stock in trade. - aphorism often credited to Abraham Lincoln, but without attestation


(intransitive) To act in a disreputable, unethical, or unscrupulous way, especially in the practice of law and politics.


(by extension) A legal layman who argues points of law.


(transitive) To exploit (someone or something) in this way.


The burbot.


A trickish knave; one who carries on any business, especially legal business, in a mean and dishonest way.


The stem of a bramble.


A person (especially a lawyer or politician) who uses unscrupulous or unethical methods


Any of various plants. en


To practice law.


(intransitive) To perform, or attempt to perform, the work of a lawyer.


(intransitive) To make legalistic arguments.


To barrage (a person) with questions in order to get them to admit something.
You've been lawyered!


One versed in the laws, or a practitioner of law; one whose profession is to conduct lawsuits for clients, or to advise as to prosecution or defence of lawsuits, or as to legal rights and obligations in other matters. It is a general term, comprehending attorneys, counselors, solicitors, barristers, sergeants, and advocates.


The black-necked stilt. See Stilt.


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

Common Curiosities

Why is the term shyster considered offensive?

It negatively stereotypes professionals, implying deceitful or fraudulent behavior.

How can one identify a shyster?

Shysters often have a reputation for using misleading practices or taking advantage of clients.

What is a lawyer?

A lawyer is a professional who is legally qualified to provide advice and represent individuals in legal matters.

What is a shyster?

A shyster is a derogatory term used to describe a lawyer who behaves in a disreputable, unethical, or unprofessional manner.

What legal qualifications do lawyers have?

Lawyers typically hold a law degree and must pass a bar examination to practice.

How are lawyers regulated?

Lawyers are regulated by bar associations and must adhere to strict codes of conduct.

Are all lawyers shysters?

No, while a lawyer is a legal professional, a shyster is a term used specifically for those who act unethically.

Do shysters have legal qualifications?

Shysters may or may not be legally qualified; the term more so refers to their unethical practices.

What actions can be taken against a shyster?

Clients can report shysters to legal authorities or bar associations for investigation.

Is shyster a legal term?

No, it is not a formal legal term but rather a colloquial and derogatory term.

Can a shyster face legal consequences?

Yes, shysters can be subject to legal consequences for unethical behavior.

How does one choose a reputable lawyer?

Look for a lawyer with good reviews, proper licensing, and a track record of ethical practice.

What is the difference between a lawyer and an attorney?

In some jurisdictions, the terms are interchangeable, both referring to someone licensed to practice law.

Are there ethical guidelines for lawyers?

Yes, lawyers must follow ethical guidelines set by legal authorities to maintain their licenses.

What can jeopardize a lawyer's license?

Unethical behavior, malpractice, or criminal activity can lead to suspension or revocation of a lawyer's license.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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