Now that you know why the American Bar Association (ABA) treats lawyers and attorneys as separate terms, there’s one legal title you need to watch out for when looking for a lawyer. It’s called an esquire, abbreviated as Esq. Although more widely used in the U.K., there are a number of attorneys with Esq. affixed to their names.
Esquire is more of an honorary title than a professional one; in the original sense, it refers to respect for a member of the nobility. According to the ABA, however, this title is no different from the designation “attorney.” Unless the person could prove he was conferred with the title, never be too quick in consulting a person with an Esq. affixed to his name.
Anyone, even someone who does not practice law, can add Esq. to their name without the approval of the ABA or any such authorized body. However, the Constitution is rather strict on the use of these titles. According to the Thirteenth Amendment, anyone who claims such a title without the consent of Congress can lose his American citizenship.
In fact, various states consider it a crime for anyone who is not in good standing with the bar to claim to be an attorney. This is precisely why state bar associations hold bar exams. Those who meet the requirements can be indoctrinated into the bar, with or without Esq. Always remember: a lawyer’s credentials should speak for themselves.