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Attorney Lien Invalidated Because Lawyers Failed to Serve The Opposing Party

AXA CORPORATE SOLUTIONS ASSURANCE v. HOFF & HERRAN, Dist. Court, ND Illinois 2013 – Google Scholar.

The Illinois Attorney Lien Act of 1909 (yes, that is not a typo) provides that an attorney can place al lien on a claim that his client places with him for collection. Liens are typically asserted in contingent fee cases. A lawyer who is paid by the hour usually does not have a lien because he has already been fully compensated.

The typical lien situation is one where a claimant hires a lawyer to sue someone. Filing suit is not enough for an attorney lien. Instead, the lawyer must serve the party “against whom” the client has a claim. That means that the lawyer must serve the adverse party with a copy of the lien. There is no requirement that the lawyer serve his own client with the lien.

One quirk of the Illinois Act is that the lien must be served upon the party, not the lawyer for the party.

Here, lawyers failed to serve AXA, a French Insurance company. Instead, they served AXA’s lawyers. Like many other unhappy lawyers before them, they learned the hard way that their lien is not valid because the requirements of the Attorney Lien Act are strictly construed.

The district court entered a judgment invalidating the lien. The result is consistent with long-standing precedent.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.