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When Does a Law School Graduate Become an Esquire?

By Isabella Roman-Secor, FSU College of Law, 3L

You just graduated from law school, passed the bar, and are ready to start your legal career by calling yourself an esquire. But before you can do that there is one crucial event that must take place: the Oath of Attorney (Oath of Admission to The Florida Bar).

The term esquire is often abbreviated as “Esq.” and is a title of courtesy given to a lawyer who is licensed to practice law. The word is derived from the Latin word “scutum” meaning shield.[1] The use of esquire can be traced back to the Middle Ages as it was used to denote an apprentice, squire, or knight who hoped to acquire a noble rank.[2] Esquire became prevalent in the United States, because the U.S. Constitution prevented the government from issuing titles of nobility and its officeholders from accepting them.[3] Lawyers adopted the term esquire as a professional title, not a social title, because they lacked prestigious recognition.

Today, esquire is a customary title given only to licensed lawyers. A lawyer who has graduated from law school but has not yet passed the bar or taken the oath should be called a Juris Doctor (J.D.).[4] Even if a recent graduate passes The Florida Bar exam, they should refrain from utilizing esquire until the oath is made. The oath is what makes an individual a member of The Florida Bar. [5]

Thus, to become an esquire in Florida, follow these four steps:

  1. Attend and Graduate from a Law School.

  2. Pass The Florida Bar Exam.

  3. Take the Oath of the Attorney.

  4. Obtain Approval from the Supreme Court of Florida.

In practice, the term esquire is used primarily in formal settings. It is crucial to know the setting and the backgrounds of the individuals before utilizing esquire. For example, in the United Kingdom esquire does not carry the same professional significance, so it would be improper to refer to a lawyer as an esquire.[6] The safest approach is to only utilize esquire to address an American lawyer licensed to practice law in formal settings.


 

[1] Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, Why Lawyers Are Called Esquire: See the Origin and Reasons, BScholarly, Aug. 24, 2020, https://bscholarly.com/author/bscholarly/. [2] Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, Why Lawyers Are Called Esquire: See the Origin and Reasons, BSCHOLARLY, Aug. 24, 2020, https://bscholarly.com/author/bscholarly/. [3] Joshua Craven, What Does “Esquire” Mean?, Lawschooli, July 28, 2021, https://lawschooli.com/what-does-esquire-mean/ [4] Jim Ash, Supervised Practice Program Ground Rules Explained, Florida Bar News, Sep. 3, 2020, https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/supervised-practice-program-ground-rules-explained/ [5] Jim Ash, Supervised Practice Program Ground Rules Explained, Florida Bar News, Sep. 3, 2020, https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/supervised-practice-program-ground-rules-explained/ [6] Esquire, Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/esquire (last visited Oct. 4, 2022).

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