by Michael Caryl
In my practice devoted to disputed lawyers’ fees, I have learned that lay clients frequently do not pay their lawyer’s billings and many dispute the billings and the reasonableness of the fees charged them, particularly as client sophistication with our prac- tice grows. The attorney’s lien can be an important tool in assist- ing lawyers to ensure that reasonable fees charged are paid by clients. Most lawyers may be aware that Washington has an attor- ney’s lien statute, but few even know the citation or have carefully
read it. The attorney’s lien, largely as it exists today, was created by enactment of the Territorial Legislature in 1863, 1 roughly about the time the Battle
of Gettysburg was being fought, and only a few years after the Washington
territory began to be settled. In 150 years, it was amended only twice. 2 I find
that most lawyers have grave misunderstandings about this statute, what
rights it confers, and how it works. These misunderstandings periodically
result in the abuse of clients by the misuse of an attorney’s lien.
Isn’t It Time for an Update?