I talk a lot about liens as a good way for a creditor to get paid. In state courts and bankruptcy courts, there often are two lines formed: one for those with liens; and the other for those without liens. And you can guess which one leads to the money.
Under Tennessee statutes, there are liens for all kinds of people: mechanics, artisans; dentists; jewelers; shoe repairers; cotton ginners; lithographers; baggage claim folks…just to name a few.
But let’s talk about attorney liens today.
Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 23-2-102, an attorney who files a lawsuit “shall have a lien upon the plaintiff’s or complainant’s right of action from the date of the filing of the suit.” (Or, per Tenn. Code Ann. § 23-2-103, the attorney has a lien from the date that the attorney starts work on the case.)
This lien extends to two types of property. The first is a “retaining lien,” which gives the attorney the right to retain a client’s books, papers, or money coming into his possession during the matter until the client pays. The second is a “charging lien,” which is a lien for payment of fees against the judgment or recovery obtained in a case. For a good review of this, see Starks v. Browning, 20 S.W.3d 645, 650 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999).
But, I say that it’s a good practice to note the attorney lien any– and every-where (in judgments, in notices filed with the Court, notices recorded in the Register’s Office), but it’s not legally required.