Use of “Esq.” In the U.K.?

Can’t remember how this came up in conversation last night, but one of my co-workers mentioned that attorneys/lawyers/solicitors/whatever in the U.K. don’t use “Esq.” after their names when signing documents in their professional capacity. So what do they use?

Also, the same co-worker also mentioned that in the U.K., “Esq.” is normally only used to refer to single men, and if used by a woman, implies that she is a lesbian. Is she totally making this up, or is there some grain of truth to it? She’s been known to come up with some doozies before.

Well I guess they use nothing! You grow up and develop a signature that becomes yours. Having to change it to add Esq. onto the end once you’ve passed the bar exam doesn’t seem likely to me.

Can’t say i’ve ever heard of this before but it has been a few years since I last visited. But I do work with a UK dyke from who has never heard of the ‘Esq’ <-> ‘lesbian’ link before.

In official documents, I think barristers put an esq. and solicitors don’t put anything. I don’t know what female barristers use.

Esq. can be used in a formaly written name to any man in UK who does not have a title. It would be strange to use it for a woman so there may be a few masculine women who use it like there may be a few who like to be called Mr or sir.
So any formal or extra-polite letter might get addressed to Bippy the Beardless esq. But you would not use Lord Bippy esq. if I was a lord.

It would be pretentious to sign yourself as Bippy esq. as the esq is a title usable by anyone and not gained through ‘merrit’. I don’t know of a female equivalent to esquire. It is equivalent to (and an alternative word for) the lowest nobel ranking of squire which is just bellow knight.

American attorneys don’t put “Esq.” after their names, either, or at least, they’re not supposed to. It’s not stylistically correct and it’s pretentious. You put Esq. after an attorney’s name when you’re writing to him. It’s either:

Samuel P. Shyster, Esq.


Mr. Samuel P. Shyster


Mr. Samuel P. Shyster, Esq.

This is in accord with what I’ve always read about the use of ‘Esq.’ It should be used sparingly, and not to refer to oneself, though I guess it’s become standard now for lawyers to put it on their stationery and business cards.

If I’m writing to an Esquire, I’d address the envelope that way, but I’m not sure I’d put it on the actual letter. I might be more apt to use ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’, which precludes appending ‘Esquire’.

As long as we’re (sort of) on the subject, what’s the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?

I guess the twelve attorneys I work with and/or for are all a bunch of pretentious snots, then, not to mention the scores of attorneys I worked with at a former job. :wink:

barrister-solicitor distinction, see

Although the terms barrister' and solictor’ are meaningful in many countries, the UK is one of the few juristictions where there is a strict legal distinction between the two. Until quite recently, only barristers had `rights of audience’ in the courts, and were entitled to speak on behalf of their clients. Now solicitors can apply for rights of audience, but the traditional distinction between barrister and solicitor is still strong (although diminishing all the time).

Barristers are trained for, and specialize in, courtroom advocacy. Solicitors deal with legal matters outside the courts.
Barristers are not, on the whole, approached directly by prospective clients, but are instructed' by solicitors. However, many organizations (trades unions, professional bodies) have working relationships with barristers. Barristers are nearly always self-employed; they work in chambers’ and may pay fees to maintain their supporting staff. Solicitors are often employed by, or partners in, a law practice. Relatively few are technically self-employed.

Well, it has become virtually synonymous with “lawyer” in this country, and the original meaning of the word, which was practically non-existent in this country to begin with, is largely forgotten. So on a business card or stationery it doesn’t seem any worse than a doctor putting “MD” that after his name. After all, that’s what your business card is supposed to do…say “I am so-and-so and this is my occupation”.

But all ‘esq.’ means is “I don’t have a title”. And in any case, I know plenty of people (my father included) who do not use the ‘Dr’ title to which they are entitled, because it seems throughly inappropriate to designate themselves by academic qualification.

I’m a little surprised that attorneys do this. No attorney I’ve ever worked for or against ever signed anything with “Esq.” I agree with Captain Amazing that it’s generally a courtesy extended to the addressee of correspondence.

Do you work at a law firm or some other organization? Attorneys that work at a corporation often put “Esq.” after their name to indicate they are attorneys. But those working at law firms normally don’t because it’s pretty clear they’re attorneys based on the letterhead.

The cards I get generally say Joe Schmoe, Attorney at Law rather than Esq.

Of course, neither of these rules are necessarily universal. That’s just been my experience.

I work at a law firm. Some of the attorneys didn’t care if the rest of us (I’m a paralegal) put “Esq.” after their names when drafting documents, but a few were sticklers for it, and so for consistency’s sake they decided all the attorneys would use it. Personally, I think it’s snooty and annoying, but then I’m the low person on the totem pole. Non-attorney staff put their titles under their names when signing things, just so it’s completely clear we are not attorneys.

I don’t know offhand what the attorneys’ business cards say; my boss’ letterhead lists her title as “Associate.”

Let’s not forget Bill S. Preston Esq.

Here in Australia, you don’t use “Esq” to describe yourself, whether you are a barrister or solicitor. It isn’t used to address barristers or solicitors either.

Maybe it’s a regional thing. I practice in the Northwest U.S. and around here it’s considered pretentious. I rarely see it used and never use it myself. As a female, I think it’s doubly silly since I’m neither a squire nor a man. I figure anyone who needs to know will figure out that I’m a lawyer, and I don’t need to preemptively announce it to anyone.

A few months ago we had a discussion on the use of “Esquire” in a thread in “Comments on Staff Reports” called Use of ‘esquire’ illegal?

For some reason that I’ve never quite figured out, it turned into a very heated discussion. CK had to pull out the ol’Moderator whistle and hand out some warnings. One participant got banned shortly thereafter; I don’t know if his participation in the thread contributed to the admin’s decision.

I had no idea that a simple discussion about an archaic English non-title could generate so much heat, so tread warily! :eek:

Just to give a slightly different take on it from Mk VII’s explanation of the English position, in the common law jurisdictions of Canada (i.e. - everyplace except Quebec), lawyers are generally defined by statute to be both barristers and solicitors. The reason for that is to pick up and carry forward any common law powers relating to the two orders of lawyers, while ensuring that every lawyer has the right of audience in a court.

We do use the terms to recognise functional differences. If I meet a lawyer I don’t know and ask what sort of work she does, and she says “Barrister work” it’s quick short-hand for court. If she says “solicitor work” I know that her practice is mainly in the office.

And in major pieces of litigation, the distinction between the two functions can emerge in the way the lawyers divy up the work. For example, I’m engaged right now in a substantial court case, and there are three lawyers on our team. One deals with the client, takes instructions, reports back to the client, and so on. He’s involved in the development of our court briefs and legal strategy, gowns and comes to court, but doesn’t open his mouth. He’s the solicitor on the team.

I’ve been doing most of the actual work in court - drafting the briefs and arguing the case in a couple of levels of court. I’m the barrister.

And since we’re going still further with our case, we’ve recently expanded to include a third lawyer on the team, as junior counsel. He’s working on the legal research and strategy as well. He’ll also gown and come to court to assist, but I’ll likely do the actual gum-flapping.

If I remember correctly, the term “solicitor” came about because of the type of work they did - they solicited work. “Barristers” are so called because they had the right of audience in the superior courts, where there was literally a bar between the bench and the well of the court, where counsel stood. A “barrister” is someone who is “called to the bar”, i.e. - allowed to come forward to the bar and address the court. Senior counsel who had been appointed King’s Counsel (K.C.) or Queen’s Counsel (Q.C.) had the right to argue inside the bar, closer to the judges. Hence junior barristers were sometimes called “utter barristers” (from “outer”) while K.C.s and Q.C.s were “inner barristers”.

The English system also had other types of lawyers, like “serjeants”, “attorneys”, “proctors” and “advocates.” (You may recall Serjeant Buzzfuzz was one of the lawyers in Mr. Pickwick’s trial.) The names indicated which courts they practised in. When the courts were fused in the late 19th century, only the terms “barrister” and “solicitor” survived.

I remember reading in Debrett’s Book of Peerage that Esq in the UK could be used by anyone these days but was originally applied to people who were the sons or grandsons of a knight, graduates of Oxbridge or owned a ‘significant’ amount of land.

I would certainly address letters to my parent’s generation as ‘John Smith Esq’ and was brought up to believe that it would be rude not to. I only came across the idea that American lawyers use it much later on in life (when living in the US).

Oh my God !

Who would have thought that people could get so worked up like that over the use of the word ‘esquire’ !