Account Collection: Should You Hire a Lawyer or Debt Collector to Get What You’re Owed?

App Icon rocketlawyerBy Justin Tenuto | October 26, 2011 (

Metermaids notwithstanding, there aren’t too many jobs with a worse reputation than debt collectors.

In those grainy old noir movies, they’re guys with square hands and blackjacks, the sort of goons who corner you in an alley and ask if you enjoy having working kneecaps. In less cinematic settings, they’re the folks who harass you during dinner, who send strongly worded letters, and who ruin people’s credit.

Of course, you’re more likely to find these stereotypes in fiction nowadays. With the advent of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act of 1978, it’s illegal for debt collectors to harass debtors, lie, cheat, or use any unscrupulous means to collect on outstanding accounts. Sure, being contacted by a collector is still an unpleasant feeling, but there’s no need to worry about falsifications, 2 a.m. phone calls, or frothy goons, cracking their knuckles.

We mention this because sometimes, business owners need to call in the big guns to collect on debts they’re owed. And if you’re in that situation, it should give you peace of mind to know that debt collectors aren’t the boogiemen they once were.

But how do you know when to call in a debt collector? If you do call one, how do you make sure they’re scrupulous and legitimate? And should you ever consider a debt collection attorney?

Let’s unpack these issues and take a look.

First, Exhaust Your Other Avenues

If you have a debtor who’s behind on their payment, do not make a collection agency your first course of action. Not only will this come off as overly aggressive, but you’ll be immediately sacrificing any hope you have of getting paid in full. After all, debt collectors and lawyers will charge fees and/or percentages of the overall debt if they secure payment for you. But we’ll get into that later. (Read more)

Next, Decide Between a Debt Collector and a Lawyer

So your letters, phone calls, and entreaties got you nowhere? It’s time to enlist the services of a professional. But which professional do you hire: a lawyer or a debt collection agency? (Read more)

Then, Choose the Right Professional

No matter if you choose and agency or a lawyer, you need to do a little research on who exactly you’re hiring. Debt collection agencies come in all flavors — some specialize in certain fields, like home improvement debts or loan repayment, whereas others are nationally based and can more quickly find debtors who have moved without a forwarding address. (Read more)

Okay, Now What?

Sign a contract and relax.

The best part about choosing a collections agency or an attorney is that you can finally take your mind off collecting debt. After all, you’ve outsourced the problem to a pro. If you’ve chosen smartly, they’ll collect in a lawful but persistent manner and you can get back at least a portion of what you’re owed. Sure, it might not be a perfect solution, but it beats calling in the goon squad.