Mitchell | October 28, 2020 | Alabama Law
In everyday language, people use the terms lawyer and attorney as if they mean the same thing. While there are certainly similarities between these two words, there is also an important distinction. If you’ve been injured in a car accident or suffered an injury due to medical negligence, this distinction could be really important should you decide to file a claim.
Lawyer vs. Attorney
A lawyer, for example, is a person who has graduated from one of the close to 200 accredited law schools with a Doctor of Jurisprudence, or JD, as it is otherwise known. However, just because a person has graduated from a law school and is a lawyer, does not mean they are able to practice law. That right is reserved for attorneys.
An attorney, after graduating from law school, is someone who has taken and passed the bar exam in the state they wish to practice and fulfilled all other licensing requirements outlined by the jurisdiction they are subject to. Another way of putting it is that they have been admitted to the bar in the state they are hoping to practice law in.
There are, however, a few exceptions. For example, in the state of Wisconsin, a person can be admitted to the state’s bar and practice law as a licensed attorney without taking the bar exam if they studied at an accredited in-state law school. This is known as diploma privilege.
It is also possible to be admitted to a states’ bar if you have passed the bar exam in another state and the two states have a reciprocity agreement. There are other exceptions depending on the jurisdiction, the amount of time an attorney has practiced law, and where they practiced.
Alabama’s Licensing Requirements
As in other states, Alabama has strict laws regulating who can and cannot practice law in the state, and what an attorney needs to do in order to keep their license valid.
These requirements include:
- Graduate from an accredited law school
- Pass the Alabama bar exam, the bar exam of another state, or transfer in via
- Pay an annual licensing fee of $325 due Sept. 30th every year
Many attorneys in the state of Alabama graduate from one of the state’s three law schools: University of Alabama (ranked 28th in the nation), Samford University (unranked), and Jones School of Law (unranked).
The number of graduates, both from in-state and out-of-state schools, who take the Alabama bar exam varies from year to year. The exam is given twice a year, in February and July, and a score of 260 or higher is required to pass.
Other requirements include:
- A score of 75 or higher on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
- Completion of a course on Alabama law
- Approval by the Committee on Character and Fitness
The exam is known to be grueling and takes two days to administer. Given how challenging it is, not every person who takes the exam passes.
Alabama Bar Exam Statistics
In July of 2020, 322 individuals took the Alabama bar exam. Of those, 229 passed the exam for a pass rate of 71.1 percent. The pass rate was significantly higher for first-time takers who passed the test at a clip of 85.6 percent.
Sixty-four graduates from the University of Alabama took the test and 60 of them passed for a pass rate of 93.8 percent. The rates were a little lower for graduates of Alabama’s two other accredited law schools. Those who graduated from Cumberland School of Law (at Samford University) passed at a rate of 86.7 percent while those who graduated from Jones School of Law passed at a rate of 69.7 percent.
Those who did pass, and met all the other requirements, are now attorneys and licensed to practice law in Alabama.