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Associate Attorney vs. Attorney: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

If you’re interested in a career in law, you may be wondering what the difference is between an associate attorney and an attorney. Both positions require a law degree and passing the bar exam, but there are several key distinctions between the two. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between an associate attorney and an attorney, and we provide helpful tips for those interested in pursuing a career in law.

What is an Associate Attorney?

Associate Attorneys are entry-level lawyers who work under the supervision of a more experienced attorney. They may be responsible for conducting legal research, drafting documents, filing motions, interviewing clients and witnesses and representing clients in court. Associate Attorneys also attend continuing legal education courses to keep up with changes in the law. Some Associate Attorneys may eventually move up to become partners in their law firm, while others may open their own law practice.

What is an Attorney?

An attorney is a professional who is qualified to represent clients in legal matters. Attorneys may work in a variety of settings, including private practices, law firms, corporations, or government agencies. They may specialize in a particular area of law, such as criminal law, family law, or corporate law. Attorneys typically provide legal advice to clients, prepare and file legal documents, and represent clients in court. In some cases, attorneys may also provide mediation services to help resolve disputes between parties.

Associate Attorney vs. Attorney

Here are the main differences between an associate attorney and an attorney.

Job Duties

Attorneys and associate attorneys have some duties that are the same, like researching cases, drafting documents and advising clients. However, an attorney typically has more responsibility than an associate attorney because they’re experienced professionals. An associate attorney may also perform additional duties, such as managing a firm’s files or taking care of administrative tasks.

An attorney may use their experience to train an associate attorney by showing them how to conduct research, handle client calls and other important aspects of the job. The associate attorney can then assist the attorney with these tasks while they learn how to do them on their own.

Job Requirements

To become an attorney, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. After completing your undergraduate studies, you must then attend law school and earn a Juris Doctor degree. Once you have earned your law degree, you must pass the bar exam in the state where you wish to practice law. Some states also require attorneys to complete continuing legal education credits on a yearly basis in order to maintain their license to practice law.

Associate attorneys typically have the same educational requirements as attorneys. However, they may not have as much experience working in the legal field. In some cases, associate attorneys may be fresh out of law school and still completing their bar exam. In other cases, they may have several years of experience working as an attorney but are looking to transition to a new firm or area of law.

Work Environment

Attorneys and associates work in different environments. Attorneys typically work for law firms, corporations or government agencies. They may travel to meet with clients and attend court hearings. Associates usually work for law firms, where they can gain experience before becoming an attorney.

Associates often work in office settings, but attorneys may also spend time working on the road. This is because many attorneys work as litigators, which means that they represent their clients in court.


There are several similarities in the skills used by associate attorneys and attorneys. Both need to be excellent communicators, both written and verbally, as they will be communicating with clients, colleagues and opposing counsel. They also both need to have strong research and analytical skills to be able to understand complex legal issues and develop strategies for their cases. Additionally, both need to be detail-oriented to ensure that all aspects of their cases are considered and to avoid making mistakes.

There are also several differences in the skills used by these two types of lawyers. Associate attorneys typically do more of the grunt work for a case, such as conducting initial interviews with clients, drafting documents and doing research. As a result, they need to be very organized and efficient in their work. Attorneys, on the other hand, typically handle more of the strategic planning for a case. They need to be able to think creatively to come up with solutions that may not be obvious. They also need to be persuasive when arguing their cases in court.


The average salary for an associate attorney is $89,050 per year, while the average salary for an attorney is $94,852 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the firm, the location of the firm and the level of experience the attorney has.


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