- A working knowledge of liens is an important part of a solicitor’s practice.
- There are two types of solicitors’ liens: possessory and equitable. Each has different characteristics and different rules apply to each.
- Part 1 of this article looks at the possessory lien, ‘an essentially defensive remedy’.
- Part 2, to be published in the August edition of LSJ, will look at equitable liens.
Two types of solicitors’ liens exist: the possessory (sometimes called ‘retaining’) lien and the equitable (sometimes called ‘fruits of the action’) lien. An early 20th century author said the law of liens was ‘not very ancient, indeed… it is comparatively modern’ (Atkinson, FW, The Law and Practice Relating to Solicitors’ Liens and Charging Orders’, 1905). On the other hand, the UK Supreme Court observed recently that ‘[s]olicitors have, since time immemorial, been entitled to a common law retaining lien for payment of their costs and disbursements’ (Gavin Edmondson Solicitors Ltd v Haven Insurance Company Ltd  UKSC 21 (‘Gavin Edmonson’) at ). Whichever statement is more correct, the topic remains, today, of considerable practical importance to solicitors.
This article aims to provide a snapshot of this area of the law, acknowledging that there are complexities to it which are beyond the scope of this article.