Legal English – Peter’s Pills – Lesson 15 – Attorney-at-law vs Attorney-in-fact

Legal English for Notaries - By Federnotizie

Attorney-at-law vs Attorney-in-fact



Today we look at the difference between an attorney-at-law and an attorney-in-fact.

First of all, you should know that the abbreviation for both is simply “attorney”, but there is a very big difference between these two figures.

An attorney-at-law is a lawyer who is authorised to practice law before a court. This term comes from England, where lawyers who were authorised to practice in the common law courts were known as attorneys-at-law.

An attorney-in-fact is an agent who is authorised by an instrument called a “power of attorney” to act on behalf of a principle (another legal or natural person) in order to perform some particular act or for some particular reason. The attorney-in-fact (procuratore) does not need to be an attorney-at-law (avvocato).

Attorney-at-law and attorney-in-fact may also be spelt without the hyphens (trattini), so it is possible to write “attorney in fact” or “attorney at law” or to simply use the abbreviation, “attorney”.

Please remember that “power of attorney” is generally abbreviated to “PoA” and the title given at the top of a power of attorney is generally “Power of Attorney”. We do not entitle the instrument as “Special Power of Attorney” (procura speciale) or “General Power of Attorney” (procura generale), but merely as “Power of Attorney”. The contents will tell us if the instrument grants the attorney-in-fact with general, or special, powers.

Thank you very much and see you next time for more Peter’s Pills to improve your Legal English!

See a typical model of a Power of Attorney granting general powers here: “General Power of Attorney template“.

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