LawProse Lesson #296: Counselor vs. Counsellor

LawProse Lesson #296: Counselor vs. Counsellor

A learned correspondent of ours, Michael Eshleman, is the county attorney for Otero County, New Mexico. A member of both the New Mexico bar and the Ohio bar, he tells us that the New Mexico admission certificate calls him an “attorney and counsellor at law.” But the Ohio admission certificate calls him an “attorney and counselor at law.” Meanwhile, although his U.S. Supreme Court certificate uses the spelling counsellor, all the other federal courts to which he has been admitted use counselor. He wants to know what gives. The answer is that counsellor is the older spelling—and remains the standard form in British English. Counselor is an American spelling introduced as part of Noah Webster’s simplified orthography in the early 1800s. It had become pretty common in American print sources by 1840, and it overtook the –ll– spelling in American English during the 1920s. The –l– spelling has been Standard American English ever since. One might surmise that admission certificates using the –ll– spelling have simply never been updated to reflect modern American English. It’s probably not a matter of Anglophilia, but rather of traditionalism. In states where the –l– spelling appears on admission certificates, some mid-20th-century editor at the bar association probably “corrected” the spelling to reflect the current preferences in American dictionaries. The huge tenth edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, being American in origin, spells it counselor. Sources: Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 228 (3d ed. 2011). Black’s Law Dictionary 426 (10th ed. 2014).

Live seminars this year with Professor Bryan A. Garner: Advanced Legal Writing & Editing

Attend the most popular CLE seminar of all time. More than 215,000 people—including lawyers, judges, law clerks, and paralegals—have benefited since the early 1990s. You'll learn the keys to professional writing and acquire no-nonsense techniques to make your letters, memos, and briefs more powerful.

You'll also learn what doesn't work and why—know-how gathered through Professor Garner's unique experience in training lawyers at the country's top law firms, state and federal courts, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.

Professor Garner gives you the keys to make the most of your writing aptitude—in letters, memos, briefs, and more. The seminar covers five essential skills for persuasive writing:

  • framing issues that arrest the readers' attention;
  • cutting wordiness that wastes readers' time;
  • using transitions deftly to make your argument flow;
  • quoting authority more effectively; and
  • tackling your writing projects more efficiently.

He teaches dozens of techniques that make a big difference. Most important, he shows you what doesn't work—and why—and how to cultivate skillfulness.

Register to reserve your spot today.

Have you wanted to bring Professor Garner to teach your group? Contact us at for more information about in-house seminars.

Scroll to Top