Contingency Judgment Recovery And UPL

August 9, 2023


Most people know that across the country, courts are cutting back on services and hours, and raising their fees. What is not as well known is that almost every business day, another court decides that assignees of record, enforcing judgments assigned to them on a contingency basis, cannot represent themselves in their court.

Some judges and courts have been persuaded by either lawyers or others, that those enforcing judgments for others are performing an Unlawful Practice of Law (UPL). It does not matter to those courts that the judgments being recovered have been properly assigned to the judgment enforcer. 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.

Contingent judgment recovery is very important because not every judgment is large enough, or has a debtor rich enough, to interest a contingency recovery lawyer or a judgment buyer. Sometimes individual courts do not allow contingency judgment enforcement, and sometimes all courts within an entire state no longer allow it.

More than one lawyer has told me that judgment enforcers should not use the words “contingent” or “contingency” in any communications with original judgment creditors, their contracts, in emails, or on their websites. I also heard that one should not even use those words in conversation because someone might get deposed by a judgment debtor’s lawyer.

The problem is becoming so serious that some judgment enforcers should consider only buying judgments outright, or be ready and willing to hire an attorney to represent them in court.

You might be able to change your judgment business to a judgment outsourcing or judgment referral business, or hire a lawyer to file all court paperwork and make all court appearances. You find the judgments and the assets, and your attorney does the rest. Look for the article I have written about using a lawyer in your judgment business. Another idea is to simply avoid courts that do not like assignees of record.

As of 2017, most courts still allow assignees of record working on contingency, to represent themselves to recover a judgment. Note that most judgment enforcers are not going to run into this issue soon, because they will be recovering judgments from pro-se debtors or dealing with attorneys that do not come up with an UPL argument. However, with larger judgments, this kind of challenge may soon become routine. The larger the assets involved, the more often this may happen.

I am not a lawyer. My opinion is that if a judgment is bought for cash upfront, with no lingering contingency financial obligations; the enforcers’s right to represent themselves for a judgment they own, will probably stand up to possible attacks by a judge or the judgment debtor’s attorney. If you recover judgments on contingency, consider that one day you may be buying judgments outright someday.

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