The case in subscription form
"Matter of Gonzalez v. Thelen Reid & Priest LLP, 114877-2006
Decided: February 9, 2007
Justice Carol Robinson Edmead
NEW YORK COUNTY
"There are two separate and distinct classes of liens available to attorneys at law: (1) a general common-law or retaining lien on all property, including papers, books, documents, money or securities, belonging to the attorney’s client which came into the attorney’s possession in the course of the professional employment, and (2) a limited statutory lien on a specific fund or judgment on a cause of action or counterclaim, also known as a charging lien7 (In re Sebring, 238 AD 281 [4th Dept 1933]; In re Reiser, 137 AD 177 ).
Here, the Law Firm’s application to quash the Subpoenas at issue is premised upon the ground that it has a retaining lien on the subject documents.
"The purpose of an attorney’s retaining lien involve inconvenience to the client" (Sorin v. Shahmoon Indus., Inc., 20 Misc 2d 149, 191 NYS2d 14 [Sup Ct, New York County 1959]). "The function of the lien is essentially one of compulsion-its aim being to assure payment of the fee due the attorney for services rendered" (Sorin v. Shahmoon Indus., Inc., 20 Misc 2d 149, supra]). Thus, the purpose of the retaining lien is to compel payment (Singer v. Four Corner Serv. Station, 105 NYS2d 77 [Sup Ct, Kings County 1951]), or secure payment of the reasonable value of the services which he or she "had rendered as attorney in the action and or for all services rendered for the client" (see Goldman v. Rafel Estates, Inc., 269 AD 647 [1st Dept 1945]). The retaining lien continues until the attorney’s charges for all services which he or she has performed for the client have been paid, "not only those pertaining to matters relating to the papers or property in his hand at the time, but also for any balance due for other professional services" (In re Sebring, 238 AD 281, supra) (emphasis added). "