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A debt collection attorney provides legal representation to creditors to compel consumers to pay back loans or overdue bills. You can become a debt collection attorney by first completing your undergraduate and law degrees and passing the licensing exam in your jurisdiction. Your resume can be enhanced while in law school with clerkships and jobs in the debt collection field. Career options for a debt collection attorney can include joining an existing firm or starting out on your own. The flip side is to become a debt collection attorney who uses his or her knowledge to assist consumers rather than creditors with financial issues.
Undergraduate courses in business and accounting help you understand the complexities of consumer credit. These courses will help you hit the ground running once you get into law school. Your law program might feature specialization in business law or commercial transactions that can help you become a debt collection attorney. Most law programs offer other courses that can prepare you for a career in debt collection. For example, you can learn how to deal with debtors in dispute resolution class, get a better understanding credit agreements in contracts class, and learn more about defaulted loans in a course on real estate transactions.
You should attempt to take advantage of clerkships with law firms during the school year and over the summer break to become more familiar with debt collection law. An clerkship in the legal department of a collection agency may require working with collection documents and contacting debtors. Working for a local consumer law or debt collection firm can familiarize you with the legal process for representing creditors in court. This work would also put you in touch with experienced lawyers who can explain the realities of debt collection.
After graduation from law school you may want to consider joining an established debt collection firm or establish your own office as a sole practitioner. You might have more opportunities to become a debt collection attorney with an existing firm particularly if you live in a larger metro area. In this way, you could then learn the ropes, i.e., the proper procedures for filing and prosecuting debt collection lawsuits, from your more experienced colleagues. Starting from scratch would be challenge, not the least of which is finding clients and paying overhead.
Another career option is to work with a credit counselor, consumer education group, or a consumer oriented law, firm to help debtors with their financial issues, which may include filing bankruptcy petitions. This path would allow you to assist families and individuals and sometime small businesses who have gotten deep into debt due to extenuating circumstances. Most of your time would be spent reviewing debtor records, creditor claims, and the applicable law to find appropriate ways for the discharge of consumer debts. You might also represent a consumer in court if creditor files a lawsuit to collect a debt.
@Terrificli -- another variation on that theme is to branch out a bit by trying to take on creditors needing representation in bankruptcy court. By looking out for the interests of those clients in bankruptcy court, you'll learn the law from the creditor's side very quickly and it is a bit of a "no risk" practice -- the options to creditors are somewhat limited in bankruptcy court, so getting up to speed on how best to represent them doesn't take terribly long.
Again, get that experience and then build on it.
Honestly, one of the best ways to get an education in the field of debt collection is to start off as a bankruptcy attorney. Spend a year or two representing consumers and businesses that have to file for bankruptcy and you will learn the laws regarding debt collection in a hurry out of necessity.
Also, you will gain valuable insight into the financial pressures that families face at any given time and what events will cause people to make the decision to file for bankruptcy.
Going to work for a firm or company that focuses on debt collection is all well and good, but that is not a good option for lawyers who maintain general practices and just want to expand the services they offer. Those attorneys wanting to expand but not specialize may want to consider first representing bankruptcy clients and then building on that knowledge to branch out into debt collection.
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