Lawyer Fees Explained

lawyer fees explained The Sawaya Law Firm

How much does it cost to hire a personal injury attorney? How do lawyer fees work? After a car accident, you have enough to worry about – medical treatment for your injuries, bills, getting to work, insurance adjusters. Seeking legal advice is always a good idea but before you hire a lawyer, you should understand how lawyers get paid, and what the costs and benefits of hiring an attorney are.

How Does A Lawyer Get Paid?

Contingency Fee

In most personal injury cases, lawyers charge a contingency fee. This means that lawyer fees are collected “contingent” or dependent upon a final settlement, or final verdict at trial. For most of our cases, The Sawaya Law Firm uses a Contingency Fee Agreement. Contingency fee agreements allow us to provide quality legal representation to our clients immediately after an accident. Instead of worrying about the burden of paying legal fees up front, our clients can focus on recovering, while we begin working the case.

Hourly, Flat-Fee, or Retainer

The most common fee structure for non-personal injury cases is the hourly rate. Depending on the type of law that a lawyer practices, and the demand for their services, the fee can go up or down. If the legal matter is simple, like a will or traffic tickets, they may charge a flat-fee. A retainer acts as an advanced payment for the work that will take place for the entirety of the case.

How Much Does a Lawyer Charge?

Contingency Fee Percentage

The most common Contingency Fee percentage in personal injury law is between 33 – 40%. After 40 years of helping injured people in Colorado get the legal help they need, we stand by our 33% Contingency Fee. Gaining access to one of the most experienced law firms in the state shouldn’t be a luxury. Bear in mind that for cases where a lawsuit is filed, the percentage can increase up to 40% – the benefit being the elevated efforts and experience our law firm brings to the table.

Costs and Expenses

Our law firm advances the costs and expenses associated with your case as we work on it, and then deduct them from the final settlement.

In a personal injury case, costs and expenses may include:

  • Obtaining your medical records
  • Hiring skilled accident investigators
  • Accessing police/accident reports
  • Hiring aexpert witnesses
  • Postage
  • Filing fees
  • Pre-Trial Depositions
  • Trial exhibits

What can drive lawyer fees up?

Depending on the fee structure applied in a matter, (hourly, retainer, or contingency) there can be several factors that can drive the expense of hiring legal help upwards.

  • Area of Law – If the area of law is highly specialized, like patent regulation, the fees can be much higher than a more common area of law, like estate planning.
  • Experience Level – A lawyer who has been practicing law for 30+ years can bring significantly more to the table, and that may come at a higher fee.
  • Jurisdiction – Law firms working in major cities like Los Angeles or New York may have higher costs associated with running their practices.

What can drive the cost of a lawyer down?

The reasons listed above will definitely affect the total cost of hiring a law firm, sending it higher or lower. There are a few ways to control costs that come with hiring a lawyer.

  • Preparation – One of the best ways to reduce the costs associated with hiring a lawyer is to take the case seriously and come prepared to each appointment. Legal work isn’t all about trials and passionate speeches – it’s about boring paperwork – tracking down bills, receipts, reports, statements, insurance information, all the while keeping in constant communication with clients. Although the length of a case can depend on many factors, focused effort by both attorney and client can reduce the time it takes to get to a settlement – saving time, which is money.
  • Negotiations and Bill Reductions – Our lawyers work hard to attain settlement amounts that cover all of the medical bills associated with a case. In certain circumstances, we are able to aggressively negotiate your medical bills down, so that more money comes back to you. There are also ways to increase settlement amounts through a well-crafted Demand Letter.
  • Size of Practice – The choice to hire a solo practitioner or small firm with smaller legal fees may help you lower your overall costs. While there may be a potential monetary benefit to hiring a smaller firm, the injured person should properly identify their priorities and hire a law firm that understands their goals.

Hiring a lawyer can be a difficult decision, but hopefully by understanding how lawyer fees work, those that need legal help can feel more confident and educated about their choices. If you’ve got questions about lawyer fees or want to know more about our practice, call us or contact us today for a free consultation.

DISCLAIMER – The information provided on this site is for educational purposes and should not be considered legal advice, does not constitute a legal services, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is or should be formed by this site.


Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.