Taking Assignment of Client's Judgment
Opinion rules that a lawyer may not accept an assignment of her client's judgment while representing the client on appeal of the judgment.
May a law firm take an assignment of a judgment in whole or in part as payment/security for fees rendered to a client while the law firm is representing that client in the active pursuit and appeal of the judgment and while representing the client in various other matters?
No. Rule 5.3(a) of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct provides generally that, "A lawyer shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation he is conducting for a client,...." A lawyer's accepting an assignment of a judgment which is the subject of an appeal being handled by the lawyer would violate Rule 5.3(a). Generally speaking, a lawyer may not accept assignment of her client's judgment unless and until all appeals concerning the judgment have been exhausted and the client has determined not to pursue collection. Even under such circumstances, however, the practice of lawyers purchasing judgments from their own clients is not encouraged. CPR 291.