The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a Notice to the Bar, has invited public comment on a recommendation of its Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics that the attorney’s “common law retaining lien” be abolished. Now permitted by Rule, the Advisory Committee finds the lien to be obsolete and destructive of client relations. Lawyers have adequate other legal remedies to recover costs and unpaid fees. Holding a client’s file hostage to payment of a fee is meaningful only when the claine has an “acute” need for the file - a situation that carries a risk of prejudice to the client who has the unfettered right to terminate the attorney-client relationship. Such conflict reduces public confidence in the Bar, the ACPE opines.
As the Committee notes, it solicited the opinion of the State Bar Association which urged that the common law retaining lien. The Notice, Report of the ACPE, and statement of the State Bar Association are HERE. - GWC
Disclosure: I am a member of the ACPE
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