Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Can a female attorney be an "Esquire?" ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Can a female attorney be an "Esquire?"
Category: Relationships and Society
Asked by: cryptica-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 23 Oct 2003 07:57 PDT
Expires: 22 Nov 2003 06:57 PST
Question ID: 269023
I've found plenty of websites detailing the origin of the title
"Esquire" for a Britsh or American male lawyer or attorney.  But
nothing so far that discusses what to call a female.   Can a woman be
an "Esquire?"  And/or is there an equivalent?  I need an authoritative
answer, not personal opinion.  Thanks.
Subject: Re: Can a female attorney be an "Esquire?"
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 23 Oct 2003 08:48 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear cryptica-ga;

Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to answer your interesting

A female attorney can, and some do indeed use the title “Esquire”.
This same question was posed to the Illinois Bar Association. Here is
an excerpt of their answer:

“In 14th century England, when the title Esquire (Esq.) was first
recorded, it meant "shield-bearer," and referred to a county gentleman
aspiring to knighthood, who could gain that rank by apprenticeship to
a knight. But the original esquires were probably biblical, the title
having been used in 1 Samuel 14, when Saul's son Jonathan called the
young man who bore his armour his "armour-bearer."

But when Esquire crossed the ocean, it encountered an American society
that disdained honorifics indicating social rank. Article I, Section
9(8) of the United States Constitution forbades such titles: "No title
of nobility shall be granted...." So Esquire came to indicate
occupation, not social status. In the 19th century it designated a
justice of the peace or an associate judge, and finally was expanded
to include lawyers, who were always male. When female lawyers began to
practice, it included them-despite some protest. One American lawyer,
writing from England, said that it never applies to women there. He
added that he had heard "certain ribald comments on the receipt of
letters addressed to women when the name was followed by the title

“In this country, however, only a small minority of letter-writers
disapproved of using the title for both sexes…”


As for authoritative sources, assuming the quote above is not enough,
there is actually a legal opinion on the question from the New York
Bar Association. I am leaving out the discussion which you can read at
your leisure, but the gist of the legal opinion is that not only can
both male and female attorneys use the title “Esquire” in their
professional endeavors, but they may use the title outside the
professional arena as well in much the same was we presume as a
physician may uses the title ‘Dr.”, or a scholar uses the title “PhD”:

TOPIC: Name; use of title "Esquire" 

DIGEST: Attorney may ethically use the title "Esq." after his or her
name, even when acting in a non-legal capacity.

QUESTION: May an attorney properly append the suffix "Esq." to his or
her name when not acting in a legal capacity?

CONCLUSION: For the foregoing reasons, the question presented is
answered in the affirmative.

May 5, 1994 

In more recent times the term has become a bit antiquated regardless
of gender. It would be just as correct, and perhaps grammatically
safer, to address the attorney in correspondence as Mr., Mrs. or Ms.
as appropriate, or to follow their name with the generic descriptor,
“Attorney at law”. The Constitution OF the United States, in Article,
I Section 9, clause 8 states: "No title of nobility shall be granted
by the united States…” so the term is NEVER used in verbal greeting or
as an introductory title as part of one’s name and rarely if ever does
someone describe themselves using the term “Esquire”. Since we do not
use titles in the United States, the term “Esquire” is indicative of
occupation rather than social status and therefore applies equally to
anyone in that occupation regardless of their gender. However, in our
present culture it is strongly recommended that we endeavor to use
terms that are not inclusive terms whenever possible thereby avoiding
misunderstandings and/or uncomfortable situations:



I hope you find that my research exceeds your expectations. If you
have any questions about my research please post a clarification
request prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating
and your final comments and I look forward to working with you again
in the near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;





Google ://




Request for Answer Clarification by cryptica-ga on 23 Oct 2003 10:52 PDT

Great to have you answering one of my questions again. 
One last bit of data needed:  Is there any evidence (examples) that
female attorneys ARE actually USING "Esquire?" Or any evidence of them
using anything else colorful like that?  (Attorney-at-law is

Two lawyers I know claim their assistant researched the "Esquire"
issue and that the proper term is "Handmaiden."  (I suspect this is
their idea of lawyer humor.)

Clarification of Answer by tutuzdad-ga on 23 Oct 2003 13:30 PDT
Sure, there are many examples. There are 15 or so attorney’s seen here
who are readily identifiable as female who are using the term
“Esquire” (and this was found only on my first search attempt):


In fact, Attorney Patricia A. Comeford, Esq. is the President and
Founder of THE ESQUIRE GROUP a national recruiting
and consulting firm made of of men AND women, headquartered in

The Women’s Law Center of Maryland is loaded with women who freely use
this title with their names:

One only needs to search using this search term to find and abundance
of female attorneys who use the title Equire with their names:

"Women Attorneys Association" esq

As for the alterative names (which I found no references to) or the
title “handmaiden”, I can only assume that your colleagues are
referring to the usage of the terms in the antiquated past and applied
their own modern (albeit it incorrect) logic to come up with such an
explanation. In olden days an armed male who acted as an escort was
called an “esquire”; one who was employed in service or bound by
conscription to protected his charge:

Presumably these strikingly clever fellows (read sarcasm) assumed that
the female equivalent to a male escort was a handmaiden, a subordinate
female attendant who accompanied, chaperoned and often escorted a

While you and I know this is nonsense, it serves well to prove how the
truth can become so skewed over the years that researchers like us
eventually become employed to unravel what the speculators have spent
years tangling up. I don’t think your friends were trying to pull one
over on you, they probably really believed it. I can even see how they
might have come to this “handmaiden” conclusion and applied it to
modern day female attorneys. The truth is however that their
conclusion is a fairly goofy one and likely to generate a large (but
brief) round of laughter at the local "Women Attorneys Association"
meeting. But I wouldn't want to be the one who takes the podium to
tell it.


Request for Answer Clarification by cryptica-ga on 24 Oct 2003 08:13 PDT
This is so funny! I deliberately didn't tell you who the 2
"Handmaiden" lawyers were because I didn't want you feel at all
self-conscious in how you worded your answer.  #1 is my own father and
#2 one of his law partners.  I printed out your answer for my Dad, who
solemnly read every word and conceded defeat.  (The clincher was your
link to Patricia A. Comeford, Esq., based in MINNEAPOLIS --which is
where our "Handmaiden" guys live!) Oooh, Victory tastes so sweet!  
And Pinkfreud's "Mary Jo" Esquire addition got a huge reaction as
I need another day to post your rating, because while #1 admits it is
a 5 star answer, and particularly creatively written, #2 hasn't seen
it yet.  I agreed to wait for his reaction.  He may not want to go
down without a fight.

Clarification of Answer by tutuzdad-ga on 24 Oct 2003 08:45 PDT
That IS funny. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story. If you
can’t convince him to admit he was wrong, fear not. There are many
lawyers in this world who have clearly found it a painful thing to do:

Geraldo Rivera, F. Lee Bailey, Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon (and on, and
on, and on...)


Request for Answer Clarification by cryptica-ga on 25 Oct 2003 16:46 PDT
Lawyer #2 won't be able to read your answer 'til late next week, so
I'm going to close it out now and if he has probs with it, I'll let
you know and we can always open a new question.  Thanks so much.

Clarification of Answer by tutuzdad-ga on 25 Oct 2003 17:46 PDT
Thank you for your generous tip. I wish you luck in enlightening your
friend with the facts we've discovered here. If not, just keep it in
perspective. Some things were meant to remain unchanged. That's why we
have tombstones.

I look forward to our next Google Answers adventure together.

cryptica-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Great work as always from Tutuzdad, with an extra volunteered goodie
from Pinkfreud. What separates Google Answers from other research
sources is that it's never "just the facts, ma'am." The resarch is
always embellished with creative writing and wit.

Subject: Re: Can a female attorney be an "Esquire?"
From: pinkfreud-ga on 23 Oct 2003 12:26 PDT
Hi, Cryptica!

Regarding your question about whether female attorneys are actually
using "Esquire," you'll find lots of women's names followed by "Esq"
on the Web. Here, just as a sample, are several attorneys named Mary
Jo who use "Esq." as a professional title:


Substitute any woman's name for the "Mary Jo" in the search string
above, and you'll get a similar set of hits. I don't think this has
become the standard yet, but it's definitely being done.

To me, "Esquire" after a woman's name does not sound as strange as
female military personnel being addressed as "Sir" and "Mister," which
is sometimes still done.
Subject: Re: Can a female attorney be an "Esquire?"
From: cryptica-ga on 24 Oct 2003 08:14 PDT
Pink -- This was the coup de grace.  Love it.  Scroll up and read my
latest "clarification" to Tutuzdad.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy