The U.S. legal system has a united legal profession, which means that it does not draw a distinction between lawyers who plead in court and those who do not. Many other common law jurisdictions, as well as some civil law jurisdictions, do draw such a distinction: for example, the division of solicitor and barrister (advocate) found in the United Kingdom, and the division of advocate and civil law notary in France. An additional factor which differentiates the American legal system from other countries is that there is no delegation of routine work to notaries public or their civil law equivalent.
Attorney-in-Fact and Attorney-at-Law
Strictly speaking, an "attorney is one who acts on behalf of another person in some capacity. An "attorney-in-fact" is akin to an agent who acts on behalf of another person, typically with respect to business, property, or personal matters. Such an agent does not have to be licensed to practice law and may not need to have any license at all.
By contrast an attorney-at-law, or lawyer, is a person trained and licensed by a relevant jurisdiction to practice law by representing clients in legal matters and giving legal advice. In the United States, the term attorney, standing alone, generally refers to this meaning rather than to "attorney-in-fact".
The term "attorney-in-fact" is mostly seen in the context of someone representing another person's interest in business negotiations or regarding signature pages on documents where the person signing is doing so on the basis of a power of attorney. The term power of attorney generally relates to an attorney-in-fact, not an attorney-at-law. Alternative titles for "power of attorney" type documents in non-U.S. jurisdictions include the French "Pouvoir", the German "Vollmacht" and the Portuguese "Procuração".
Attorney-at-Law and Attorney General
The term Attorney General is used to designate the chief law enforcement officer of a state or other political jurisdiction. The Attorney General is a lawyer who represents the government, prosecutes criminal cases, defends the government from lawsuits against it, and brings civil lawsuits to enforce consumer protection, antitrust, and other laws.
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