Meet an Attorney - Sandra Hagen
What do you like most about being a lawyer, and least?
What I like most is being able to help guide our clients through the litigation process. It is an unknown and often intimidating process, so if I can assist in making that journey a little easier or understandable, that makes me happy. I equally like being able to get favorable results for our clients.
What I like least is dealing with unreasonableness and gamesmanship on the other side. Litigation should be adversarial without being ugly.
What question do you hear most frequently from clients?
“Why?” It’s asked about so many things in the litigation process, from why they have to file their case in court to why juries aren’t permitted to hear certain evidence that our clients think is extremely relevant, such as traffic citations or insurance coverage.
Many people who need the help of a personal injury lawyer are going through extremely difficult periods of their lives. What words of support do you offer to people in this situation?
Focus on taking care of yourself and getting your life back to as normal as possible. You hired our team to take care of fighting for you – so let us do that. Spend your time getting the medical or psychological treatment you need, getting back to work, or resuming activities of daily life.
Many clients do not have a sense of the value of their case. What advice do you have to help a client decide whether a settlement offer is a reasonable offer?
We have myriad of resources from which to draw – from our involvement in local trial lawyer associations to printed reports showing jury trends in Colorado – as well as our own experiences in the courtroom. What is most important is that no two cases are the same. Each client is unique, each collision/incident is unique, and each person’s history is unique. If an offer is made in a range that is reasonable based upon those factors, we discuss that with our clients and make sure they are fully aware of the risks and benefits of settling their claim versus going to trial.
What motivated you to become a lawyer?
“Because the law, my boy, puts us into everything. It’s the ultimate backstage pass.” – Devil’s Advocate (1997). This about sums it up. I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was in grade school, but really couldn’t articulate why. That quote does a nice job. The law constantly changes and evolves and it’s such a wide-ranging field that it’s virtually impossible to get bored. In my day-to-day life as a litigator, I am learning medicine, psychiatry, engineering, and the like as well as legislative processes in the establishment of statutes that affect us in practice. My learning never, ever stops.
How is being a lawyer different than what you expected before joining the profession?
There are so many ways to answer this question! However, I suppose the part that I didn’t really grasp – even in law school – was just how much written work goes into each case. As stated above, each case is unique with its own existence that differs from every other case, so the strategies constantly vary and how we manage those strategies varies. We are always playing the long game, so what we do at step 1 willaffect later steps and, ultimately, trial. All through the pre-litigation and litigation process, new facts or circumstances are discovered that have to be considered and woven into the strategy. By the time a jury is sat, they are looking at 3-5 years of work, thousands of pages of documents, and a lot of court orders crystallized into a 5-day trial.
What is an interesting fact about you that someone would not learn from looking at your resume?
I have a near-debilitating fear of chair lifts, which is unfortunate given that I live in such a beautiful ski-intensive state. However, despite having taken lessons (a few times, in fact), I am the worst skier in the world. I should probably just listen to the universe on this one and stay off the slopes.
Who do you admire most and why?
My parents. They are two of the hardest working people I’ve ever known – and they both have wicked senses of humor. I’ve tried my best to emulate their work ethic and not take myself too seriously, which I think has served me well in life and I thank them for those gifts.
You work hard as a lawyer during the week. What is your favorite thing to do to relax on the weekends?
Not ski! Ha! I love college hockey (University of North Dakota – Go Sioux!) so I try to carve out time to watch or attend games during the winter. Also high on the list is attending concerts (although Denver always seems to get really good shows during the middle of the week which is not always conducive to my trial schedule), and Avs and Broncos games. I also love to hike and travel when I’m able.
Who was your favorite lawyer on television and why?
Alan Shore from Boston Legal. In addition to being portrayed by James Spader, whom I love, the character is hilarious while also being brilliant. There are absurdities in every profession and how his character deals with those in the legal field brings levity to some of the absurdity that we occasionally deal with in litigation.
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.