In layman’s terms, what are the basic differences between a paralegal, a litigator, an attorney, and a lawyer?

lawtrades temporary legal staffing lawyers

Legal terms can be tough!

Let’s break this down so you can have a solid understanding of what each of these actually means.


A paralegal is a qualified individual who takes on the role of doing legal work that is delegated by an attorney. While they have additional training and education in the legal industry, they are not fully qualified to act as an attorney. Instead, they work under the direction of an attorney. However, they may offer services on their own.

Common services include:

  • Documentation preparation
  • Providing legal assistance and general advice
  • Explaining procedures of law

Note that the scope of their services does not include practicing law outright. Sometimes people use the services of a paralegal in order to reduce costs.


By definition, a litigator is someone who takes legal action against a person or organization. It’s more of a “big picture” approach to the law rather than only focusing on the trial aspect of the case. This form of legal aid focuses on managing the case and gathering every shred of information before initiating a case.

A litigator still requires a law degree, but the main difference between this type of role and a regular trial attorney comes down to the approach and focus. Many people decide between becoming a trial attorney or litigator based on their own interests and temperament. However, the skill and experience requirements are quite similar.


These terms are used interchangeably. Some people prefer one term or the other, but the meaning is the same. Both terms require a law degree and indicate that the individual is practicing law professionally. Of course, specializations can vary.

We can put you in touch with any of the professionals listed above. We offer the largest platform for freelance attorneys that can range in specialization. Contact us today if you’d like some help!