Canadians Still Search for “Lawyers,” Not “Attorneys”

Up until the Judicature Acts in 1873, lawyers in England and Wales practicing in the common law courts were known as attorneys-at-law, or attorneys for short. After this time they adopted the term solicitor, which was previously used for the courts of equity. Of course in Canada lawyers are both barristers and solicitors, although neither term is used much in common parlance.

Anthony Castelli of Circle of Legal Trust recently compared searches for “lawyer,” “lawyers,” “attorney” and “attorneys” using Google Trends in the U.S. and concluded,

…the obvious the word of choice to optimize for is attorney. In the United States it is searched on over twice as many times as the word lawyer. For some reason the plurals of the word are inverse to the singular. The trends for all 4 words appear to stay about the same.

But Canadians don’t use the word “attorney” nearly as interchangeably with “lawyer” as they do in the U.S., so I was curious to see if this pattern would be mirrored in Canada.

As expected, the Google Trends for the same words in Canada show a heavy dominance of “lawyer” and “lawyers” over “attorney” and “attorneys.”

searches for lawyer in Canada

There seems to be a slight increase in the use of the word “attorney” between January 2009-January 2011, but since that time it has dropped and consistently stayed lower than pre-2009 levels. The searches for “lawyer” have increased since 2011, and still appear to be on the increase. The reason for these changes are likely due to improvements to geographical assignments implemented by Google on July 12, 2011, which have been applied retroactively as far back as January 1, 2011.

In Canada, most of the searches related to “attorney” involve the Attorney General, the Crown Attorney, or queries related to a power of attorney. Searches for “attorneys” has been negligible throughout this time period.

What can we conclude from this information?

Most of the search volume in Canada is concentrated in Southern Ontario, followed by the Lower Mainland in B.C. and some activity in the Prairies. Based on the upward trends I believe it’s safe to conclude that more Canadian consumers will turn to Google to find or research a lawyer, and they’ll do it using the term “lawyer” and not “attorney.”

Not to beat a dead horse, but more people search “Ontario bar” than they do “Law Society of Upper Canada.” Either the OBA is really popular with the public, or the public whose interests LSUC is supposed to protect are ending up on the site of the profession’s main advocacy group.

searches for LSUC in Canada

Of course nobody, not even the lawyers, search for practitioners using the terms “barrister” or “solicitor.” But those appear to be other examples of traditional nomenclature that we’re stuck with, for now.

barrister and solicitor searches




  1. Agree with your take on Canadian usage; but disagree with the conclusion of the original piece. The author even says, “For some reason the plurals of the word are inverse to the singular.” … That is, even in the US, the term ‘lawyers’ trends higher than ‘attorneys’.

    Why? Take a look at the related terms for ‘attorney’: “attorney general”, “power of attorney”, “district attorney”, “state attorney”. The singular form of the word is seriously skewed by competing concepts. The phrase “attorney general” alone, on an exact match search, drives over 1 million US searches every month.

    Plus, the plural comparison between the terms has ‘lawyers’ trending higher? It doesn’t add up. And it’s certainly not a clear cut conclusion.

    Also worth mentioning, the terms ‘lawyer’ and ‘attorney’ (and ‘law firm’ for that matter) are all semantically connected in Google. You search for one term, and pages optimized for the other term will rank in your Google search results. Google even bolds the connected phrases to demonstrate the match.