HOURLY BILLING

Our firm normally forms teams of personnel to handle complex matters and litigation so that a mix of hourly rates and expertise is available to handle the full range of issues involved and one normally only uses the highest rate partner to give strategic guidance and manage the team. We have found that such a method increases efficiency while lowering overall costs to the client.

Since almost all of our cases involve teams with mixed rates, you can normally expect that the average hourly rate you will encounter will be in the neighborhood of $190.00 per hour in litigation and $350.00 per hour for transactional or complex negotiations though individual rates may be higher or lower. Clients on the retainer system receive a significant discount on the above rates. Selected cases may be taken on a contingency or semi-contingency basis. Our initial consultation is without charge for the initial hour and we thereafter normally bill in itemized monthly invoices.

In most matters it saves time and money to utilize our services before a dispute arises. Many safeguards can be created at the negotiation stage of a business relationship which can eliminate danger areas and streamline conflict resolution.

FLAT FEES AND PACKAGES

We also charge flat fees for certain types of work, such as simple Wills and Trusts or some types of contracts. We have found that while each client has unique needs, a basic "package" of documents is normally necessary for any person requiring an estate plan, wishing to hire an employee, or commencing business operations, and such "packages" are made available to our client after we have carefully reviewed their unique situation to determine what special problems they may confront.

Flat fees are normally appropriate for standard documents we create or standard procedures we initiate that are not contested by an opposing party since the amount of work will not be increased by the activities of our opponents. Typical flat fees we charge are as follows:

  1. Simple California incorporation : One thousand seven-hundred and fifty dollars ($1,750.00) plus out of pocket costs.

  2. Simple formation of Limited Liability Company : One thousand seven-hundred and fifty dollars ($1,750.00) plus out of pocket costs.

  3. Simple formation of a Professional Corporation : Two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500.00) plus out of pocket costs.
  4. Living Trust (Probate Avoidance) with Medical Power of Attorney and Pour Over Will : Two thousand dollars ($2,000.00) for an individual or two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500.00) for a couple.

We have many other flat fees, but the advantage to the client is that you know what cost you are facing before you begin working with our firm and you no longer have to worry about the actual time that must be expended.  Be sure to inquire as to the availability of flat fees when you are in your first meeting with us.

Packages allow the client to retain our services to accomplish an entire set of structures, contracts and related advice regardless of the hours required, thereby being able to accurately budget the process from beginning to end. An example is our "Business Start Up" package which includes not just the creation of the entity (Corporation or LLC, etc.) but all related agreements (Buy and Sells, employment, vendor) and related advice for a set price at the beginning. The client buys the "final result" not merely hours of attorney time which, from the client's point of view, is irrelevant.

RETAINER METHOD

Perhaps our most innovative fee method was developed by our firm decades ago and is often preferred by many of our business clients. Stimmel, Stimmel & Smith offers its regular business clients a retainer method of billing by which our office is paid a set amount monthly for a minimum of one year and the client has free access to our personnel for everything aside from litigation up to a cap of hours per month or quarter. For litigation or complex contractual negotiations, the retainer client receives a substantial discount for its hourly billing. Caps are set on the total hours that can be used depending on the particular retainer amount and type of work, but the main benefit of this method is that it eliminates hourly billing for the bulk business work and allows the client to utilize our services without constant worry that each call costs money or that employees will begin calling and cost the business too much.

Does it work? About a third of our business clients have elected that method. Additionally, access to special web pages with articles and legal forms are made available to our retainer clients, each such client receiving a password, as more fully described below. Our firm believes that the future of legal representation aside from litigation is likely to be creation of retainer methodology for most clients with the client obtaining access to extensive “legal libraries” of forms as described below using a password and only interacting with the attorney for advice on use of the forms and more complex matters.

TRAVEL COSTS

The multi jurisdictional nature of our practice necessarily often requires extensive travel for meeting with clients, corresponding counsel and opposing parties. Many negotiations can only efficiently culminate if face to face meetings occur and our attorneys recognize the need for substantial travel commitments. Unlike many firms, we have adjusted our fee structure to enable our clients to afford the cost of having counsel travel long distances since charging our normal hourly rate for the time expended in such travel would result in even the shortest trip costing many thousands of dollars. At the same time it must be recognized that attorney’s time is valuable and such travel time becomes cost prohibitive if the attorney can not accomplish compensated work during the travel. Our innovative approach to charging for travel time has been welcomed by most of our clients. our firm has created the following policies.

We do not charge for travel time within the San Francisco Bay Area until we arrive at the locale of the meeting or conference. For travel time outside the San Francisco Bay Area we charge at half rate for the travel time unless the client consents to pay for travel by business class and if that is the case, the attorney does not charge for travel time unless working on the client matter during the travel. (The reason is simple: the attorney, with a laptop, can continue working on various matters while traveling on business class but economy class does not have room for such equipment on most airlines.) Further, any accommodations that the attorney uses should have high speed internet access if available, again so that the attorney can work on multiple matters even while traveling. We have found that clients save money by use of this policy and that the attorney can service other clients even during the longest trips. Most clients are relieved to know that their particular counsel will almost always be available by e mail even if traveling abroad.

Most retainer clients have special methods for payment for travel by our legal personnel, including flat rates for a certain number of trips per year.