Many creditors have an internal “collection attorney vs. collection agency” debate when seeking help with debt collection without ever understanding the key differences between the two.

And unfortunately, creditors who make a mistake and pick the wrong option may never end up getting repaid.

If you hire a debt collection agency when you should be relying on a debt collection attorney, your debtors will continue to ignore your demands for repayment.

Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know to differentiate the two and choose the right option.

What Is a Collection Attorney?

A debt collection attorney is a professional lawyer with the certified ability to practice law in your state. A collection lawyer will have unrivaled legal expertise and experience helping out other creditors in the past.

The title “attorney” is sometimes used to exclusively refer to those who actually practice law in the courtroom. The title “lawyer” may be applied to those who have law degrees but never actually practiced law. For debt collection, there’s little distinction between the two.

Serving legal notices

One service that a debt collection attorney might provide is the serving of legal notices to debtors. A debtor who owes money must usually be notified about the exact amount they’re expected to repay. A collection lawyer can issue these notices in compliance with the law.

Landlords, business owners, and other creditors who attempt to serve legal notices without the help of debt collector lawyers could easily violate the rights of the debtor. This could leave them liable to an expensive lawsuit that might even erase the original debt.

A debt collection lawyer may also be hired to issue “NTQs,” or “notices to quit.” These important documents must be delivered before evictions can be conducted. By overseeing these documents on the behalf of creditors, attorneys avoid disastrous legal mistakes.

Representing you in court

In addition to helping you during the pre-litigation phases of debt collection, an attorney can also represent you in a real courtroom. Unlike debt collection agencies, debt collector lawyers have the legal expertise and credentials to actually deliver and respond to lawsuits.

Whereas agencies mostly serve to remind (or even pester) debtors, debt collection attorneys actually have the legal power to take action against stubborn debtors. Not only will these lawyers secure a court judgment in your favor, but they’ll also enforce it afterward.

Best of all, a debt collection attorney understands how to collect debts without breaking national or state debt collection laws. Unlike individual creditors and many agencies, these lawyers will virtually never violate the law in a way that jeopardizes the collection of a debt.

What Is a Debt Collection Agency?

Unlike a debt collection attorney, a debt collection agency cannot represent you in a courtroom. Still, these agencies manage a majority of commercial debt collection for small businesses and rely on software and certain techniques to yield results.

There are generally two types of debt collection agencies.

The first type focuses on finding debtors and collecting payments on behalf of creditors, usually small businesses.

The second type focuses on buying, selling, and swapping old debts as a commodity.

These agencies usually pursue delinquent debts that are at least 60 days overdue. Often, they won’t make any money unless they successfully collect the debt, at which point they’ll earn a percentage of it as a commission. They seldom if ever charge upfront retainer fees.

Agency automation

Unlike a national collection attorney who focuses on one specific debt, a collection agency may automate the debt collection process to try and collect numerous outstanding debts at once. Automated phone calls, SMS text messages, and emails are often used for this.

Many debt collection agencies effectively try to pester debtors into paying up by constantly reminding them of overdue debts. Unethical harassment from unscrupulous agencies led to the creation of federal laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to guard debtors.

Modern debt collection agencies are wiser and try to avoid legal violations that could lead to the forfeiture of a debt. Nevertheless, they don’t possess the same legal expertise as lawyers and cannot navigate the contours of the law as safely as an attorney can.

Buying debt

Worried that you’ll never reclaim an unpaid debt? Some agencies buy, sell, and swap debt with others in order to turn a quick profit. If one agency believes they can reclaim an unpaid debt that another agency failed to pursue, they may purchase the rights to collect the debt.

Debts that are beyond the statute of limitations, meaning those which are now ineligible for collection, are sometimes referred to as “zombie debt.” This debt may not show up on a credit report, but some agencies may nevertheless pursue this “forgotten” debt.

What Should You Pick?

Should you hire a debt collection attorney or a debt collection agency? It depends on what kind of debt you’re trying to collect and how committed you are to getting paid. Generally speaking, debt collector lawyers will have greater success reclaiming your money.

While a debt collection agency may be the more common option, they have no real power other than locating debtors and pestering them to pay up. While they may pursue more aggressive collection tactics, they could easily violate national or state laws when doing so.

A collection lawyer can steer you through the pre-litigation phases of debt collection, issue legal notices on your behalf, represent you in a courtroom, and enforce a legal judgment for you after winning your case. Debtors respect lawyers more than agencies.

Nevertheless, not all debts are worth suing over. As a matter of fact, many agencies specialize in pursuing small debts that a collection lawyer might not waste their time chasing. Small business owners often enlist the help of agencies to pursue minor debts.

While most debt collection attorneys will be willing to track down wayward debtors, agencies regularly conduct skiptracing to identify the location of those who owe money. Agencies may also negotiate settlements between creditors and debtors in certain cases.

Unsure how to reclaim your debt? Let Hanna & Jarbo handle it.

We are Michigan’s most successful debt collectors

The debt collection attorney powerhouse of Hanna & Jarbo has an 85% success rate when it comes to reclaiming the money owed to creditors. You won’t find better debt collection services anywhere in the Midwest.

Our team of legal experts understands the intricacies of debt collection laws in Michigan as well as national laws like the FDCPA. We’ll get your money back without violating debtor rights and jeopardizing the collection of your debt. Our 85% success rate speaks for itself.

Hanna & Jarbo never charge clients out of pocket – we don’t get paid until your debt is recovered. We’ll manage the entire process of debt collection on your behalf, from the pre-litigation phase to the post-judgment collection process. You never have to lift a finger.

A majority of debts go uncollected in the United States, yet our team at Hanna & Jarbo successfully collects a supermajority of the debts we’re assigned. With the help of Hanna & Jarbo, you’ll get it right the first time and ensure the speedy repayment of your unpaid debt.

Specialty practice areas

Our legal experts excel at debt collection and many other areas of law. Whether you’re seeking to collect a debt outside of Michigan or manage other commercial paper receivables, we have the legal expertise needed to maximize your chances of success.

In addition to overseeing money judgments, our debt collection attorneys can manage landlord-tenant disputes and facilitate the eviction process. We also possess valuable expertise that’s relevant to those dealing with mortgages and land contract deficiencies.

Need help with auto loans and debts? How about construction debts or returned checks? Our extensive team of debt collection lawyers have years of experience producing serious results in a wide array of industries.

Hanna & Jarbo are prepared to help you in the following specialty practice areas:

  • Supplier Account Receivables
  • Returned Checks (including charge-back credit card payments)
  • Landlord-Tenant Debt & Money Judgments
  • Charged-off or non-paying commercial credit portfolios
  • Construction debts
  • Auto loan and deficiencies
  • General loans, notes, and credit lines in default
  • Secured and unsecured judgments or liens
  • Foreign (non-Michigan) judgments
  • Mortgage/Land Contract deficiencies
  • Other commercial paper receivables


Don’t take our word for it – just listen to these happy testimonials provided by previous clients whose debts we managed to collect against all odds:

Contact Hanna & Jarbo To Start Recovering Debts

Don’t let your valuable debt slip between your fingers. Contact Hanna & Jarbo today to start getting repaid immediately. We never charge clients out of pocket and proudly collect debts in 85% of all cases.