Indiana law recognizes two types of liens that can be asserted by an attorney to recover amounts owed for unpaid services. The first type of lien is provided by Indiana Code § 33-43-4-1, which provides:
An attorney practicing law in a court of record in Indiana may hold a lien for the attorney’s fees on a judgment rendered in favor of a person employing the attorney to obtain the judgment.
This statutory lien only applies in situations where a judgment has been rendered in favor of the client. Therefore, it will rarely be available to counsel that is representing a defendant in litigation. In order to assert such a lien, the attorney must file a notice of the lien including the amount owed with the trial court within sixty (60) days of the date the judgment has been rendered. See, Indiana Code § 33-43-4-2.
In addition to the attorneys’ lien provided by statute, Indiana courts also recognize that attorneys’ have an equitable right to retain possession of a client’s documents, money, or other property which comes into the hands of the attorney professionally until the attorney’s fees are paid. This lien exists as long as the attorney retains possession of the client’s property. The situation in which this equitable lien will be most effective is when the attorney receives funds for his client, such as proceeds from a settlement. When the attorney only has his client’s file, the effectiveness of such a lien depends on the value to the client of the retained file.