What is the Difference Between a Briefcase and an Attaché Case?

Leather Briefcase

While attaché cases and leather briefcases look almost identical when sitting next to each other, they each have a unique history and distinctive qualities.


Coined from the French, the word attaché refers to an administrative member of an ambassador’s staff. Due to their responsibilities, these people carried papers and documents with them in slim cases. Over time these came to be known as attaché cases.

On the other hand, the word briefcase originated from the legal field. In law, a brief is a summary of facts and legal positions that support specific arguments in court proceedings. Lawyers would carry their briefs in a case, therefore coining the term briefcase.


An attaché case is a small, thin suitcase that is typically used to transport papers, documents, and a laptop if needed. This particular bag style opens into two distinct, usually symmetrical, compartments. Most attache cases are either leather or metal on the exterior.

Similar to an attaché, briefcases are also flat, rectangular, and typically used to transport papers, books, and an occasional laptop. Unlike an attaché case, a briefcase opens into one main compartment. The lid may contain additional pockets or gussets that can expand to provide extra storage space if needed. Most briefcases are made from leather and are typically bulkier than an attaché, allowing more room for storage.

Depending on your needs and functionality preferences, the slight differences between the two styles can end up making a big difference. Take a few minutes and browse the selection of quality leather briefcases and bags at Floto Leather Bags.