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Esq. Vs. J.D.: What Is The Difference?

May 24, 2023


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 01/16/23

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an Esq and J.D.? In this guide, we’ll be going over Esq vs. J.D. and their different career options. 

A person might get confused with many titles and terms when looking into the legal field, especially if you want to work in it, you must know your terms and the various legal qualifications. 

Some of the many titles people get confused with are “Esq.” and “J.D.” In this guide, we’ll be going over the differences between the two and the various career options.

The Difference Between Esq. and J.D.

Differences between Esq. and J.D.

The significant difference between Esq and J.D. is that Esq. is given to those who are practicing lawyers and are members of the bar. In comparison, someone given the title of J.D. has received a law degree but cannot practice law because they’re not a bar member. 

What Does Esq. Stand For?

An “Esq.” or “Esquire” is an honorary title for a practicing lawyer. Practicing lawyers are people who have passed the bar exam and are licensed by the bar association. 

Often, lawyers only use the Esq. title when conducting business. They may use it on official court documents, signs, letterheads, and business cards.

Although it’s purely customary to use Esq., some states have disciplined unlicensed J.D.s for using it. However, the majority of lawyers prefer to use J.D. rather than Esq. because they find it old-fashioned. 

What Does J.D. Stand For?

The term “J.D.” stands for Juris Doctor and is awarded to a person who has received a law degree from an accredited law school. Lawyers will use this title for business purposes. They will have it on their resumes, business cards, letters, emails etc. 

Having a J.D. means a person is not a bar association member and cannot practice law until they’ve been admitted to the bar. A person can receive their law degree; however, they can only practice law if they’ve passed the bar and therefore become a member of the bar.

Career Options for J.D. Graduates

A Juris Doctor or a law degree is what people aim to obtain because they want to pursue a career as a lawyer. However, if you complete your law degree and don’t want to pursue a career as a lawyer, there are other career options you can pursue. 

Insurance Adjuster

An insurance adjuster works in the claims department of an insurance company. An insurance adjuster investigates insurance claims by conducting interviews with witnesses, obtaining hospital records, and inspecting property damage. 

Once the investigation is complete, the insurance adjuster determines if the insurance company should pay a claim and how much. Becoming an insurance adjuster can be a viable career option for someone who has obtained a law degree. Their legal education and skills can help them out with the role. 


A mediator is a person who assists and guides parties through negotiations. The mediator's goal is to have the parties settle their conflict. Many mediators work within the court system, while others work in the private sector. 

Those who have completed their law degree have the skills and experience in negotiations and meditations, making this career an excellent one for them. 

Law Professor 

As a law professor, you'll need an L.L.M. education and have gained experience in a specific legal field. If you have a J.D., you're well equipped to teach law as a professor at a college.

Career Options for Esquires

As mentioned before, Esquires are practicing lawyers and bar members. That said, they have many career options other than being a lawyer. 


The role of a judge is to conduct hearings in an unbiased manner. To become a judge, a person must work as a lawyer for some time and then work towards a judgeship. Becoming a judge is a very viable career option for an esquire because an esquire has the knowledge and experience to work as a judge,

Legal Consultant

A legal consultant is an attorney hired by a law firm to help with a case. Often, they're an expert in a specific field of law. Their specialization in that field of law makes them valuable and qualifies them to be a consultant for that firm. This career option is a great one for esquires because they work as an attorney in a field they specialize in.

FAQs: Esq. Vs. J.D.

If you still have questions about the difference between Esquires and J.D., check out these frequently asked questions below. 

1. Are J.D. and Esq. The Same?

No, a person with a J.D. and an esquire are different. A person with a J.D. has a law degree and is not a bar member, whereas an esquire is a practicing lawyer who is a member of the bar association. 

2. What Is the Difference Between Esquire and an Attorney at Law?

There isn't a difference between esquire and attorney at law because they're both synonymous. Attorneys are practicing lawyers just like esquire; the only difference is that the title "esquire" isn't used anymore, whereas the term "attorney at law" is still commonly used. 

3. Is Esquire Higher Than a J.D.?

An esquire is a practicing lawyer who's a member of the bar. A person with a J.D. has a law degree but isn't a practicing lawyer. In that case, an esquire is considered higher than a J.D. because they're a practicing lawyer.

4. Should I Use the Esquire Title?

Rarely anyone in the U.S. uses the esquire title. It isn't common; however, if you want to use the title, you can. Often esquires use the title for business purposes.

Final Thoughts

When looking at a career in the legal field, it’s important to know the difference between the different titles. You also need to know who is considered a practicing lawyer and who’s not. 

It’s also important to note that you can still work in the legal field with a J.D. without being a practicing lawyer. This guide has shown you the difference between esquire and J.D. and the many career options available out there.

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