My Lawyer center

What is the difference between attorney and lawyer?

A LAWYER?

The term ‘lawyer’ is often used to refer to a broad spectrum of legal professionals. Generally speaking, though, a lawyer is anyone who has been trained in law. Anyone who has attended law school, and attained anLLB (Bachelor of Laws) degree, is a lawyer.

What this means is that if you are only a lawyer, without any additional qualifications or professional designations, you cannot represent a client in a court of law. What your legal training does qualify you for is acting as a legal consultant or policy advisor, or giving legal advice.

AN ATTORNEY?

To become an attorney, you first need to complete your theoretical legal training (i.e. your LLB degree). You can then do your articles (a form of internship) with a practicing attorney for a specific period of time. Once you finish your articles, you need to write a Board Exam. If you pass, you can apply to the High Court to be admitted as an attorney.

An attorney can specialise as a conveyancer, patent attorney, litigator, and more. He or she can, in certain circumstances, represent clients in a court of law. While all attorneys can be referred to as lawyers, all lawyers are not necessarily attorneys.

When should I file for bankruptcy?

You should consider filing for bankruptcy only after other attempts to resolve financial difficulties have failed. Although the decision of whether to file bankruptcy can be made only after a thorough review of your finances, the bankruptcy process is most useful to those who:

  • Have failed in attempts to pay or reschedule debts;
  • Have a significant amount of unsecured debt. An unsecured debt is one in which the creditor has no specific interest in property of the debtor to collect on in the event that the debtor does not pay the debt. Common examples of unsecured debt are: Credit card purchases; Catalog purchases; Utility service bills
  • Needs to stop debt collection pressure exerted by creditors. The filing of bankruptcy prevents creditors from taking any further action to collect a debt, including, for example, continuance of a foreclosure action and phone calls to the debtor demanding payment.

The consumer bankruptcy laws are intended to wipe out most of your debts, and to give you a “fresh start.” However, a bankruptcy filing will remain on your credit report for ten years if you file under Chapter 7 or seven years if you file under Chapter 13. Further, certain types of debts, such as taxes, student loans, and child support may not be discharged (wiped out) in bankruptcy. If you file bankruptcy, you may be prevented from filing again for six years, depending upon the type of bankruptcy filed.

How do attorneys set their fees?

Legal fees are set and determined by an agreement or contract between the attorney and the client. The agreement as to what the attorney is to do and how much the client is to pay may be oral or in writing. The amout of the fee and the basis for the charge are determined by a number of factors:

  • The amount of time spent on your problem
  • The attorney’s ability, experience, and reputation
  • The results obtained
  • Overhead costs such as secretarial and para-professional assistance‚ investigators‚ and other personnel
  • Your ability to pay
  • The primary types of fee arrangements are:
  • Hourly rate, in which the total fee is determined by the attorney’s hourly charge times the number of hours required to do the job.
  • Fixed fee, in which a specific amount is agreed upon for a known service, such as divorce, bankruptcy, will, incorporation, contract, and defense of a criminal charge.
  • Contingent fee, in which the attorney receives a percentage of an amount recovered on the client’s behalf. The client always is expected to pay any out-of-pocket expenses incurred in prosecuting the litigation. If no recovery is made‚ the attorney receives no fee.
  • Retainer is merely a method by which the attorney is paid. This is when the client makes a “down payment” from which the charges that accrue as the work progresses are deducted.