The economics of plaintiff-side personal injury practice

David A. Hyman, Bernard Black, Charles Silver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little is known about the economics of plaintiff-side law firms, which typically work on a contingency fee basis. We begin here to fill that gap. We report on the fees received by 124 plaintiff-side personal injury firms located in four states (Illinois, Texas, and two additional undisclosed states). At all of the firms, cases with modest fees may help to keep the lights on, but occasional "blockbuster" cases account for an overwhelming percentage of earned fees. A one-third contingency fee is the most common arrangement but is not always collected ex post; when recoveries are low, firms often reduce or waive their fee. We also estimate the impact of various statutory contingency fee caps on these firms; the effect varies, depending on cap design and casemix. But, many contingency fee caps dramatically affect the economics of plaintiff-side personal injury practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1563-1604
Number of pages42
JournalUniversity of Illinois Law Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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