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Dear Esquire,

As lawyers, we pride ourselves on using precise words in our writing and speech.  That is why I am astounded by the frequent misuse of the word “esquire”.  I fully admit that I wrote “Esq.” the first time I signed my name after being admitted to the Bar.  I thought it was meaningful and a sign of personal accomplishment.  I’m certain that AT&T thought the same thing when they looked at the signature on my check for the phone bill.  I used the word, but I didn’t know what the word meant.  I was told that esquire was a synonym for lawyer.  I went back to basics and picked up a dusty dictionary from the bookcase. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word  “esquire” has the following definition:

  • a member of the English gentry ranking below a knight, or

  • a candidate for knighthood serving as shield bearer and attendant to a knight


I realized that there was no way I could consider myself landed gentry since I did not have a fiefdom in the States let alone Great Britain.  I decided that I needed to stop referring to myself in such a manner or I might violate the Code of Chivalry.  I saw Braveheart and did not want to be on the rack for my potential offense (offence) against the Crown.


Thankfully, Merriam-Webster gave me a way out by also defining the word as being “used as a title of courtesy usually placed in its abbreviated form after the surname <John R. Smith, Esq.>.”  I was saved. From that day on, I made sure I only used “esquire” to refer to another lawyer, not myself.      



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