detail from the sarcophagus
of roman jurist valerio petroniano (315–320)
a jurist (from medieval latin) is an expert of law or someone who researches jurisprudence. such a person can be an academic (legal scholar), legal writer, law lecturer and law practitioner (lawyer), depending on legislation in the respective jurisdiction. professionally, in the united kingdom, australia, new zealand, south africa, and in many other commonwealth nations, the word jurist sometimes refers to a barrister and solicitor, whereas in the united states of america and canada it often refers to a judge.
thus a jurist, someone who studies, analyses and comments on law, stands in contrast with a lawyer, someone who applies law on behalf of clients and thinks about it in practical terms.
there is a fundamental difference between the work of a lawyer and that of a jurist. many legal scholars and authors have explained that a person may be both a lawyer and a jurist, but a jurist is not necessarily a lawyer, nor a lawyer necessarily a jurist. both must possess an acquaintance with the term "law". the work of the jurist is the study, analysis and arrangement of the law—work which can be done wholly in the seclusion of the library. the work of the lawyer is the satisfaction of the wishes of particular human beings for legal assistance—work which requires dealing to some extent therefore with people in the office, in the court room, or in the market-place.
the term jurist has another sense, which is wider, synonymous with legal professional, i.e. anyone professionally involved with law and justice. in some other european languages, a word resembling jurist (such as italian giurista, german jurist, norwegian/danish/swedish/dutch jurist, french juriste, spanish/catalan/portuguese jurista, galician xurista, russian юрист etc.) is used in this major sense.