A debt collection lawyer is an individual licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction who primarily focuses on helping others collect debts. This type of attorney must abide by all the laws and regulations that apply to any other debt collector. The advantage of using a debt collection lawyer is that if a lawsuit becomes necessary, the lawyer is already familiar with the case and has a working relationship with the client.
Often, the first step to collecting a debt involves a collection agency or the company's internal collections department. If these individuals are unsuccessful at collecting the debt, the account may be passed to a debt collection lawyer. The lawyer may work for the original lender, or may work for a company that bought the bad debt from the original lender. In either case, the debt collection lawyer must first establish that a debt is owed to the client and that the person named on the loan is the responsible party.
Once the debt collection lawyer makes the determination of the responsible party, which is often fairly simple, the next step is often to contact that individual. This may take place via personal letter, e-mail, or even a phone conversation. The lawyer will introduce himself or herself, explain what the situation is and how it may be resolved. The goal at that point is to enter into private negotiations to settle the debt.
If the responsible party does not respond to attempts at communication or is unwilling to settle, the next step is to file a lawsuit, typically in a small claims court. At this point, the debt collection lawyer files a petition seeking damages, and may also ask the court to make the person owing the debt pay court and attorney fees. The lawyer may still provide the opportunity for a settlement.
Once the petition has been filed, the next step is to hold a pretrial conference. In this case, a judge usually attempts to work with both sides to come to a mutually-agreeable settlement. This may include showing the parties what the dispute is, explaining the law, and outlining how the case may be handled. Typically, the facts are not in dispute on a debt collection case.
If the facts are in dispute, or the parties are unable to come to an agreement, the case will be litigated much like any other case. The debt collection attorney will present evidence, call any appropriate witnesses, and lay out the case. The defendant will then get the opportunity to cross examine witnesses and present rebuttal evidence. A judge will then make the final decision on payment of the debt.