Why do we say it that way? Are we just trying to distinguish members of the bar from those persons who have been appointed by a power of attorney?
The language of a power of attorney often confuses my clients, by the way. They read it and say to me: "why am I giving you this power, Larry, this is all wrong. It says my "attorney" has the power to do [this and that] ...". I explain to them that in a Power of Attorney document, the "attorney" that it refers to is the person that the client appoints to handle their affairs, not to me.
Why don't we just call ourselves lawyers to avoid the whole confusion? Or, if we have to make a phrase out of it, let's make a phrase that has a more intelligible meaning in modern times such as: Attorney for Law; Attorney by Law; Attorney through Law; or Attorney Despite the Law. Attorney at Law sounds like we are just hanging out at the law. It doesn't give me the impression that there is any action going on. I haven't been to work one day in my career when there wasn't a lot of action going on, even if I had to make some up.
Now, the phrase "members of the bar" that I see in my first sentence, there is a phrase with some meaning and action.
Bill (correctly) encourages me to insert links to references on the net to support my blog entries. Well I began my search this morning with a search on Google. The immediate response was: "Results 1 - 10 of about 303,000. Search took 0.40 seconds". Well there is just not enough coffee in this member of the bar to overcome last nights actions and enable me to go through these "about 303,000" entries to supplement my Friday morning incoherent ramblings. Those of you looking for more scholarly research this morning will just have to move on.