UK and USA Legal Differences

Updated: a day ago

In the UK, there are not one but three separate legal jurisdictions in the UK in which a lawyer might be permitted to practice law, namely; (1), England & Wales, (2) Scotland, and/or (3), Northern Ireland).

Just as is the case with the UK, the USA likewise does not have one legal system but instead has the 50 different US state legal systems, the national federal court system. Instead, there are 51 or more separate US legal jurisdictions (and the legal systems in US territories, etc.,in which a lawyer might practice law,

Another major difference is that there is only one type of lawyer in the USA and he or she can only practice in the US states in which he or she is licensed.

Notwithstanding that US lawyers often refer to themselves as being a "trial attorney", a "divorce attorney", or another practice-related term, there is only one type of lawyer profession in the USA and the term attorney, attorney-at-law, or counselor-at-law, etc., all have the exact same meaning. All US lawyers after obtaining their juris doctorate in law school and passing the particular state's bar exams must then apply to be admitted in one or more states' bars.

There is also a separate federal court system across the US. Broadly, the federal courts were set up in order to resolve disputes concerning the US Constitution, matters between the individual US states, certain cases where one or more parties are foreign, matters of admiralty law, and bankruptcy matters. Where a British person or other foreign individual or entity needs to file a claim in the USA, the federal courts may often be used.

​Many UK based persons contact me by telephone or email and tell me that they need help with a USA matter and/or need an "American" lawyer. However, further to the above, it should be clear that in dealing with USA legal matters, you generally need to confirm what USA state or states might be relevant.


© 2020 by Kevin Michael Burke