After reading the NARCA special bulletin, “New Jersey Ethics Opinion Deems Sending Collection Letters as the Practice of Law,” and knowing that we receive multiple requests for NJ referrals from law firms outside the state, I called one of my attorney friends in NJ to find out how this recent opinion will impact National List law firm members.
He informed me that the NJ Creditor Bar Association will be meeting June 13 to discuss; however, he has advised his out-of-state lawyer friends to refrain from sending law-firm demand (debt collection) letters to consumers in NJ, if they are not a licensed NJ attorney.
The ethics opinion states that any collection letter coming from a lawyer is considered to be the practice of law. Therefore, you must be licensed to practice law in the state of NJ in order to send a law-firm-originated demand-for-payment letter to a NJ consumer.
I asked if law firms outside NJ could call on consumers in the state of NJ for payments, and he said that a law firm calling on a consumer would likely also be considered to be practicing law, because a demand letter would either need to be sent originally or delivered upon contact, which would require a NJ attorney. Thus, he would advise against a law firm calling or dunning consumers in NJ without utilizing a lawyer licensed to practice in NJ.
I thought that was good advice, so I wanted to share it with our readers. If you have any questions or comments regarding this ruling, let me know!
by Beverly Unrath, NL Director of Business Development