Debt Collection Attorney: Job Description, Information and Requirements
A debt collection attorney is a type of lawyer that helps a business legally obtain payment from debtors who haven't been cooperative in paying what's owed. Like all attorneys, a debt collection attorney must earn a law degree and be licensed in the state or states where the services are performed. Schooling and preparation take several years, and competition for these jobs could be high.
Collection attorneys could work for collection agencies and commercial creditors, such as banks and credit unions, or on a contract basis through an employment agency. They use legal methods to help the companies they work for recover money owed to them. When a business has trouble obtaining payment from a debtor, collection attorneys use the court system to file a lawsuit. Depending on the extent of legal action required, they could seek a judgment against a debtor and petition the court to garnish a debtor's wages.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 581,920 attorneys of all disciplines employed in 2012 (www.bls.gov). The BLS estimated that between 2010 and 2020, there would be 801,800 attorneys working in the U.S., an increase of 10%. High-paying jobs in prestigious legal firms could be competitive, and there are often more law school graduates than there are available jobs. The BLS stated that some attorneys use temporary employment agencies to gain experience.
Earnings for attorneys can vary depending on the employer and the type of practice. According to PayScale.com, the median salary for debt collection attorneys as of December 2013 was $69,711.
Becoming an attorney involves first obtaining a bachelor's degree. Most law schools don't require a specific major but recommend a multidisciplinary background in such areas as history, philosophy, communications and economics. These courses can help develop skills in reading, researching, analyzing, writing and speaking.
Applying to a law school that's accredited by the American Bar Association could provide more employment opportunities after earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Acceptance is usually dependent on undergraduate performance and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. Law school generally takes three years to complete, and students learn fundamental contract law, civil procedures and legal writing before focusing their studies on a specialization within the legal practice. Some specialties that could benefit an aspiring debt collection lawyer include consumer law, bankruptcy and litigation. Additionally, lawyers should be knowledgeable regarding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as well as consumer protection acts of individual states.
To practice as a lawyer, law school graduates must pass the state bar exam to obtain licensure. The length of the exam varies by state, but typically lasts 2-3 days. Some states might also administer an ethics exam, as well. Debt collection lawyers can be members of more than one state bar; however, to practice in multiple states, they might be required to pass each state's bar exam.
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