Attorney Liens

August 9, 2023

When you retain a contingency lawyer to attempt to win your lawsuit or recover your judgment, part of their retainer agreement will almost certainly include some type of lien on your judgment. That means that any potentially recovered judgment money must be split with your lawyer. In lawsuits and judgment recovery, whether you win or lose, you usually have to pay something. This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment broker, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.

When you retain a contingency lawyer, you must give up a sizable percentage of any potential recovery or settlement. Everything depends on the details of the retainer agreement. Often, all expenses come out of your share of a recovery. There are many advantages to retaining a contingency lawyer, including:

A) If you recover money that is paid over time, you only have to pay your lawyer as you get paid.

B) If you lose your lawsuit, or there is no money recovered on your judgment, sometimes you do not have to pay the lawyer at all.

C) You can find excellent representation (a good and perhaps expensive attorney) that might otherwise be out of your financial reach.

D) Because your lawyer will not be getting paid by the hour, you may get more interaction and questions answered, with less concern about “watching the clock”.

E) Your attorney might work harder if they are paid on a contingency basis, because their fee is at stake.

F) If your adversary finds out you are paying by the hour, they are more likely to use delay tactics to attempt to exhaust your funds.

Usually, when your lawyer does not make progress recovering your judgment, it is because your judgment debtor has no available assets to collect. Once in a while, the judgment debtor has assets, however the attorney is too busy with other lawsuits and judgments.

Many attorneys put their first priorities on their clients that pay hourly. When time permits, they work on their contingency client cases. Usually, this is not an issue, however it sometimes means they never get around to working on your judgment.

What if you want to fire your contingency lawyer? When you are trying to win your current ongoing lawsuit, there is not much you can do; except make arrangements, and pay the lawyer off. Usually, the next step is to find another lawyer to resume your lawsuit.

What if you retained a lawyer to win your judgment and/or recover your judgment? Post judgment, what if you decided they made little or no progress to recover your judgment, and now you want your judgment back? There may be a few options.

Many contingency lawyers include quantum merit clauses, so if you fire them, you will owe them for the work they have done so far. Often, contingency lawyers will not release your judgment until you pay them. When you want your judgment back, the obvious way is to work out a deal to pay them something between what you can afford, and what you owe your attorney in full.

It may also be possible to find a judgment outsourcing solution with a plan having a priority to pay your lawyer. Outsourcing your judgment on a contingency basis may cost between 12% and 65% of what is recovered, depending on your judgment debtor’s available assets.

Before outsourcing your judgment, find out from your lawyer how much is, or will be, owed to them for any future recovery; and that outsourcing your judgment recovery is OK with them. The best outsourcing solutions do not require you to assign your judgment, so it does not interfere with any existing ownership contracts.

For a judgment outsourcing example, you have a $100,000 judgment, where nothing has been recovered so far. If the judgment is not outsourced, there might forever be zero dollars to share with the lawyer having a lien on your judgment. With an outsourced solution that costs (e.g.) 40%, you and your lawyer will share 60% of what may be recovered.

Outsourcing a judgment may cost a large portion of what may be recovered, however half of something is better than all of nothing. Outsourcing your judgment will require no work and very little or no expense, making it a very attractive option.

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