We never charge for the initial consultation. Period.
If after meeting and taking a look at your case, we are able to offer the right services for you, then together we work out a clear, plain, and upfront fee agreement in writing to handle your case by the hour, flat fee, capped fee, contingency, or in some cases pro bono.
The normal rate for our attorney’s time is $200 per billable hour. Our rate is designed to be an exceptionally fair value, being about 25% less than the $251 average hourly rate reported by Wisconsin attorneys, according to the State Bar of Wisconsin’s most recent survey. We are able to charge this more affordable rate through low overhead and well-managed costs, the use of advanced software and technology that allows efficient workflow and communication, and focusing on how much value we can provide to our clients and community rather than merely how much money we can milk.
That focus on value and fairness is also why we publish our rate—something that we wish more attorneys and firms would do for their prospective customers. You will find our commitment to transparency carries into our billing practices as well.
What we bill, and what we don’t
When looking at the cost of legal services, it’s about far more than just the rate. Firms differ wildly on how they compute your bills and what they include. For example, it is common for many firms and lawyers, including Cream City Law, to bill in “tenths,” meaning one tenth of an hour. In other words, you are billed in 6-minute increments. Some firms round up and some round down. We round down. Over the life of a case that can mean a substantial savings.
More importantly, we don’t charge you for isolated things that take less than two full “tenths,” to do, such as sending or reading a brief email, leaving a message with an opposing lawyer, or having a quick phone chat. This ensures that we only charge you for work of substance, not the little things that can nickel and dime clients. And it means that instead of an impromptu ten minute phone call costing you $20-$40 dollars, it costs you $0.
We also never mark up costs that we pass on, such as copying or printing large numbers of documents. If we have to copy or print more than 100 pages for your case, we charge $0.05 a page for most copies because that is all it costs us. Some civil litigation cases involve records and trial exhibits totaling many thousands of pages, so the difference in your final cost versus a marked up rate of $0.10 or $0.25 per page can be substantial.
Finally, any travel required for your case is billed either at the standard federal mileage rate, or actual cost in the case of flying or renting a vehicle—whichever is LESS. And with our firm, any lodging or meals had on a client’s dime are limited to reasonable, common sense choices. At Cream City Law, we travel to serve our clients, not to get free trips to golf resorts or enjoy steak dinners at their expense.
Reduced fee and Pro Bono services
While our rates are calculated to be equitable and affordable, we recognize that legal services are not cheap. Litigation costs can be burdensome, particularly for those of limited means or those going through a major crisis. In many cases, we are able to represent clients of modest means at reduced fees or even free of charge as a public service to our community and those in need. Prior to starting Cream City Law, our founder spent nearly all of his legal career in public service and public interest law, and that commitment carries through to ensuring that our firm serves its community.
Capped fee, flat fee, and contingency cases
While we are proud of our exceptionally fair hourly rate, in some cases even a reasonable hourly charge is not the best or only option for our client. Not all cases need to use standard hourly billing. We are able to offer capped fee, flat fee, and contingency fee options in many cases. These can further help control your costs and reduce the financial risks of litigation.
In capped fee cases, we simply agree to a cap on the number of hours to be billed or collected for a particular service or case. This can help balance financial risk between the client and our firm.
In flat fee cases, we agree on a flat fee to be charged for handling your case, problem, or project. Whatever that fee is, that is what we bill, regardless of how many hours it actually takes.
In contingency fee cases, we do not collect from the client at all, but instead take our fee as a percentage of a successful settlement or judgment that we win in your case. If we do not win, you do not pay. While each case is unique, we aim to set our contingency fee at 20-25% for cases won or settled without a trial, and 33-40% for cases requiring a trial. Like our hourly rate, these very reasonable percentages reflect our commitment to value and fairness.
Payments and Billing
We accept all major credit cards in addition to cash or checks. For clients who prefer to go paperless, we offer an easy and secure online payment system and email invoices and billing. For those who prefer traditional paper statements and payments, we are happy to oblige.
We are also able to make a variety of flexible payment plans tailored to the needs of individuals or businesses. Please feel free to contact us regarding any questions about our rates, billing, or payment options.