Is Your Law Firm a Collection Agency? How the Current Interpretation of the Washington Collection Agency Act Threatens to Regulate the Practice of Law

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ABSTRACT

The Washington Collection Agency Act (“WCAA”) governs the conduct and internal procedures of persons or entities meeting the statutory definition of “collection agency.” The definition of “collection agency” includes an exemption that appears to exempt law firms. Currently, however, there is no binding authority interpreting the attorney exemption to the WCAA. The majority of federal court opinions interpreting the exemption have held attorneys are exempt from the WCAA only when they are collecting their own debts owed for services rendered. Attorneys collecting debts for clients in these federal cases are deemed “collection agencies” subject to the WCAA. Although the attorney-defendants in these cases are law firms specializing in debt collection, the federal courts’ narrow interpretation of the attorney exception to the WCAA has the potential to subject nearly all attorneys to the requirements of the WCAA.

This article examines the cases interpreting the attorney exemption and explains how federal courts, by viewing the WCAA through the prism of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, have narrowed the exemption far beyond what the Washington Legislature intended. The rules of statutory interpreta-tion and Washington’s long-standing principle that the Washington Supreme Court has sole authority to regulate the practice of law in Washington demonstrate that attorneys who are collecting debts on behalf of their clients through the practice of law are not collection agencies.

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Collette Leland, Is Your Law Firm a Collection Agency? How the Current Interpretation of the Washington Collection Agency Act Threatens to Regulate the Practice of Law, 48 Gonz. L. Rev. 515 (2013).

About dkazemba

David Kazemba J.D. Candidate 2014

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