Is an Esquire the Same as an Attorney?

If you’re contemplating a career as an attorney, you may have questions about some of the monikers applied to that profession. Indeed, even if you’re not thinking about becoming a lawyer, you likely have encountered various ways in which this type of legal professional is referenced. With this in mind, you may wonder whether esquire has the same meaning as the word attorney. In the United States, the simple answer to this question generally is “yes,” but there are some important nuances to bear in mind.

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Origins of the Term Esquire

The word esquire is traced to the countries that now comprise the United Kingdom. The term esquire was particularly used in England. Historically, esquire was a term of respect afforded to certain men of a higher social class. Specifically, the term of esquire was applied to landed gentry who were above the rank of gentleman but were not knighted.

Although the term esquire was broadly applied in England in past centuries, some argued that it should be reserved only for those people who were designated esquire by the monarch himself or herself. William Blackstone, author of the Commentaries on the Laws of England, took this position that only those designated as esquire by the monarch should be permitted to use that title.

In the United Kingdom today, esquire is still sometimes utilized as a general courtesy for a man. This typically occurs in some sort of formal setting.

Is an Esquire the Same as an Attorney

The Use of Esquire in the United States

In the United States, esquire has been reserved in its use for lawyers or attorneys. A person is deemed entitled to use the moniker esquire if that individual has completed law school, passed the bar, and granted a license to practice law.

Generally, if an attorney elects to use the term esquire, the abbreviation “esq.” is placed as a suffix to a lawyer’s full legal name. For example, this is how an attorney would utilize esquire in written communications or on documents: John Doe, esq.

The reality is that in the United States the term esquire has no legal significance. While the practice is for only an attorney to be able to utilize this term to identify his or her self, doing so doesn’t make an actual lawful designation in the same way as the use of words like attorney, lawyer, or even legal counsel.

Esquire Versus Juris Doctor

Finally, a distinction can be drawn between esquire and Juris doctor or J.D. Juris doctor or JD is the degree awarded to a person who graduates from law school in the United States. A person is entitled to use J.D. after his or her name upon graduating from law school whether or not that individual obtains a license to practice law. Esquire typically should not be used by an individual with a law degree who has not been admitted to the bar.

The number of lawyers in the United States is expected to increase by just over 50,000 by 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth rate is expected to be at the national average for the workforce as a whole.