I scratched my head for a moment and then realized he thought the "Esquire" after my name was actually my last name.
"No, that's not my last name," I said, with a laugh. "It just means that I'm an attorney."
But after we hung up I wondered whether that's precisely what Esquire means. And what's the difference between "Esq." and "J.D."?
As I told this story to several people, including a few lawyers, I began to realize that there is actually a lot of confusion in the legal community about when it's appropriate to use J.D. versus Esquire, and vice versa. But as it turns out, the "rule" is fairly clear cut:
- The "J.D." designation can be used the day one officially graduates from law school. (Although there is legal precedent barring the use of J.D. by a disbarred lawyer who the judge felt was using it for illegal conduct; see previous SBM Blog Post Appending JD To Your Name Without A License: It's Not About Whether But Why.)
- The "Esq." designation can be used only after passing a bar exam and being admitted to a state bar.