ACD Billing Policies & Procedures


Billing Policies & Procedures 

Contract Terms and Conditions

Billing and Scope of Appointment

Hourly Rates

Timesheets and Time Keeping

Invoice Submission 

When to Submit Your Invoice

Direct Billing of Certain Expenses

Reimbursable Time & Expenses

Expense Approval and Documentation

NON-Reimbursable Time & Expenses

Invoice Auditing

Travel Time Rules

Contract Terms and Conditions

Your acceptance of a case appointment completes an agreement between you and the SPD. Subject to the conditions below, we promise to pay your reasonable hours of professional legal services in exchange for your promise to ethically and competently represent the client in this case. "Reasonable hours" are those required by an experienced, prudent and competent practitioner to provide effective assistance in the assigned case.

When auditing a bill for “reasonableness”, the SPD may require additional information for higher than average bills.  “Reasonableness review” comprises many factors, including:

  • seriousness of charges and case type
  • complexity of fact pattern and legal issues
  • extent and novelty of motion practice
  • whether the attorney withdrew
  • whether the case resolved with plea or trial

Attorneys agree to promptly reimburse SPD approved experts and/or investigators upon receipt of payment from the SPD. 

Billing and Scope of Appointment

Trial office appointments cover all proceedings at the trial court level through dismissal, sentencing, or other disposition. Appellate office appointments cover post-conviction, post-commitment or post-dispositional representation of a client.

Attorneys must seek prior approval for any ancillary representation or work which is not squarely within the scope of appointment as described above. The SPD may not be able to pay for work done which is outside the scope of the original appointment without prior approval.

Hourly Rates

Attorneys will be paid $40 per hour for in-court and out-of-court time. Attorneys will be paid $25 per hour for travel time falling within the travel time policies described below.  See Wis. Stats. sec. 977.08(4m)(b).

Timesheets and Time keeping

Time sheets submitted as part of the invoice must be accurate as to date, activity, type of service, and time. By submitting time sheets, attorneys are certifying that the entries are accurate. Attorneys must submit expert invoices and other documentation of expenses with the time sheets.

Attorneys may bill only for the time actually spent providing professional legal services on the case billed. If an attorney has hearings or conferences for multiple clients in a day, the total in court and waiting time must be split between the cases. If an attorney travels to an institution or to a courthouse to provide service to multiple clients, the total travel time may be split between the cases or billed on one case. Attorneys may never bill more than once for any time worked.

In-court and out-of-court time must be indicated on the time sheet. In-court time is time spent representing a client before a court, before a court commissioner or before the Department of Hearings and Appeals in a probation or parole revocation proceeding.

All entries for travel time must include starting city, destination city/location(s), return city/location and total miles traveled.

Time sheets must contain sufficient information to allow the SPD to perform its auditing and review responsibilities.  A short description of each activity must be provided. The description should be detailed enough to allow the auditors to determine if the time is reimbursable. For example, an entry of “file work”, “phone calls”, “develop legal theory”, or “research motion” does not adequately describe the work performed. Entries like “develop time line from police reports”, “phone conversation with client”, “outline hearsay issue”, or “research statement suppression issue” are acceptable.

Contemporaneous time records must be maintained for all cases handled on appointment from the SPD. These records need not be submitted to our office with your billings, but must form the basis of your completion of the time sheets submitted. You may use the online time slip to maintain contemporaneous time records. You must keep these records for at least three years to resolve questions the SPD may have about your billings. Failure to maintain these records may result in non-payment of a questioned bill or removal from SPD certification lists.  See Wis. Admin. Code PD 1.03(5)(e)&(f)

Attorneys are often appointed to multiple cases for a single client. Attorneys often have court appearances for several clients on the same day. Attorneys must have a time keeping and billing system that prevents duplicate time and travel entries on time sheets.

Time records and time sheet entries should be supported by work product in the client’s file. Work product may include notes, correspondence, phone message slips, pleadings, etc. Hours claimed that are not supported by work product in the file will not be paid.

Invoice Submission

Bills are submitted electronically using the attorney’s password protected billing page.  Invoices will not be processed unless they are complete and include all required receipts and documentation.

By submitting an invoice, an attorney certifies that the invoice is accurate, the invoice complies with billing rules, and that the attorney provided representation in compliance with SPD minimum attorney performance standards. The attorney is responsible for the accuracy of bills and compliance with billing rules even if the billing is prepared and submitted by another at the attorney’s request.

When to Submit Your Invoice

Attorneys should submit final bills within 60 days of the conclusion of the case. Under this appointment agreement, interest is paid on uncontested bills paid more than 120 days after their submission. This appointment agreement also provides that the failure to submit bills within six months of the conclusion of the case releases the SPD from both the obligation to promptly pay bills and to pay interest for bills paid after 120 days from their submission. Wis. Admin. Code § PD 4.02. Billings received more than six years after conclusion of the case cannot be paid. Wis. Const. Art. 8, Sec. 2.

For appellate cases, attorneys should submit their bill when the case passes from one court to another. Bills should be submitted after completion of post-conviction motions and the filing of the notice of appeal. A new bill should be submitted again after litigation is concluded in the Court of Appeals. If you file a no-merit report, do not submit a bill until the Court of Appeals accepts (i.e. rules on) the report. Another new bill should be submitted after litigation is concluded in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Attorneys may seek approval to submit an interim bill for payment of expert fees, investigator fees or attorney time. Interim bills for experts and investigators will be approved in most instances if the case will not close for at least 30 days and the expert/investigator has performed a significant amount of work or if the expert or investigator's work is completed. Approval of an interim bill for attorney time will be considered when the attorney has performed a substantial amount of work on the case, the case is more than six months old, and the case is unlikely to be completed within 60 days of the request for approval. Approval of more than one interim bill will be granted only in rare circumstances.  

Interest Payments

The State's Prompt Payment Law (s.16.528 and 16.53 (2)(11)) provides payment of interest on state order and contract payments that are not made in a timely manner. Payments are considered timely if they are mailed within thirty days after receipt.  It is the responsibility of the agency invoicing the transaction to calculate and pay interest.  An exemption to the 30 day rule has been granted to the State Public Defender (SPD) for payments made on appropriation 20.550 (1) (d).  This appropriation is funded with a ninety day delay.  Therefore, payments made from this appropriation are considered timely if they are mailed within 120 days of receipt.  The interest rate payable is 12.0% annual compounded monthly.   For interest calculations, a month is defined as 30 days and a year is defined as 360 days.  

Direct Billing of Certain Expenses

Certain expenses may be billed at any time:

  1. Client file:  (Prior approval not needed.) If the attorney must provide the client file to the client or to successor counsel, the attorney should bill the delivery cost directly to the SPD Fiscal Unit. The attorney must complete a Client File Delivery Expense Reimbursement form and submit it along with the required receipts and verification. (Click here for forms)
  2. Appellate briefs:  (Prior approval not needed.) The cost of production of any briefs and the cost to file the briefs should be billed directly to the  Assigned Counsel Division (ACD). The attorney must complete an Appellate Brief Printing and Delivery Reimbursement form and submit it along with the required receipts.  (Click here for forms)
  3. Third Parties bill certain costs directly to the SPD Fiscal Unit, P.O. Box 7923, Madison, WI 53707:
  • Transcripts (prior approval required--attorneys should submit an expense request)
  • Interpreter fees (12 hours or less.  If you require more than 12 hours, please submit an expense request)
  • Discovery Payments (See Chapter PD 8 for current rates) 
  • Medical Records (prior approval required--attorneys should submit an expense request. After approval, attorneys should provide a copy of the Order Appointing Counsel to the medical records provider so that the provider bills the SPD the correct copy rate.) 

Expense Approval and Documentation

You will be reimbursed for reasonable expenses in the representation of your client. Although receipts are not required for most expenses totaling less than $50, you must retain receipts for all expenses to support your billing (including receipts less than $50). Auditors may request receipts at any time for auditing purposes. Expenses not supported by receipts may be disallowed.

All expenses for transcripts and medical records must be pre-approved, and legal research expenses of more than $20 must be pre-approved.  For other expenses, prior approval is needed if the anticipated expense is more than $100. Approval is obtained by submitting an expense request using the attorney’s online billing page. The SPD is not required to reimburse attorneys for expenses that have not been pre-approved.

Not all expenses are reimbursable. Please see the list of non-reimbursable expenses below. The SPD is not required to reimburse attorneys for these types of expenses. Reimbursable and non-reimbursable expense rules apply to expenses incurred by retained experts and investigators.

Questions about expenses, approvals and receipts should be directed to ACD prior to incurring the expense.

Reimbursable Time and Expenses 

Attorney time:

Professional time

    • Hours spent providing professional legal services to a client in an appointed case.

Travel time

    • Traveling if any portion of the trip is outside the county in which the attorney's principal office is located or if the trip requires traveling a distance of more than 30 miles, one way, from the attorney's principal office.

Travel Time Rules 


Professional Services

    • With prior written approval, investigative, expert and other professional services.  Requires an itemized bill from the expert, investigator or other professional.


    • Paid at the rate set by the State of Wisconsin at the time the case was appointed.

Parking expenses

    • No receipt is required for reimbursement, but receipts must be retained and produced upon request.


    • Reasonable duplication expenses related to serving and filing appellate documents (e.g., motions, briefs, petitions for review, no-merit reports) that are reasonably required to discharge counsel's duties or obligations in the appointed case. The reimbursement rates are $.10 per page for in-office copying and not more than $.10 per page for out-of-office copying plus any fees for producing, compiling, or stapling. An invoice or receipt is necessary for reimbursement if the expense totals $50 or more; 
    • Reasonable duplication expenses in trial cases for out-of-office copying (excluding duplication of the case file). An invoice from the copying service indicating the number of pages and price per page is required.

Printing of discovery from electronic format

    • The maximum reimbursement rate for printing discovery is $.10/page. The attorney must provide a signed certification stating the number of pages printed if the printing is done in-office. A receipt is required if the out of office printing expense is $50 or more.

Delivery/postage costs

    • Reasonable expenses related to transmitting a client file to the client or successor counsel. The attorney must complete a Client File Delivery Expense Reimbursement form (Click here for forms) and provide the required receipts and verification.

Obtaining records

    • If the cost of obtaining records is likely to be more than $100, prior written approval is required. Examples include: school records, social service records, public records requests, etc.  

Phone calls and Faxes

    • Collect phone calls from the client and long-distance telephone calls, including long distance charges for fax.
    • Long distance calls and faxes will only be reimbursed if the calls and faxes result in a separate and additional charge to the standard bill for maintaining phone service.

Online legal research

    • Online legal research will only be reimbursed if the research results in a separate and additional charge to the standard subscription rate paid by the attorney. Any such expense expected to be more than $20 requires prior approval.

Appellate cases

    • All reasonable expenses for mailing, serving and filing motions, briefs, petitions for review, no-merit reports or other documents required to discharge counsel's duties
    • This does not apply to general correspondence in appellate matters.
    • Counsel must effectuate timely filing and service in the least expensive manner available. Counsel may utilize the U.S. mail or third party commercial carriers. However, express mail and express delivery charges are disfavored and will not be reimbursed if unreasonable. An invoice or receipt is necessary for reimbursement.

Hotel and meals

    • May be reimbursed if staying overnight 60 or more miles one way from home. Reimbursement is limited to the current state rates in effect at the time the expense is incurred.
    • Prior approval and a receipt is required for reimbursement.

Out-of-state travel expenses

    • Require prior approval


Non-Reimbursable Time and Expenses

Attorney time:

  1. Contact with the SPD on case appointment and other administrative issues;
  2. Work done prior to date of appointment by SPD office;
  3. Work done which is primarily secretarial or administrative in nature;
  4. Completion of all SPD forms (including all billing forms, expense requests, etc.);
  5. Work done by an attorney other than the appointed attorney, except that an SPD-certified attorney may, with the client's consent, substitute at a routine appearance (i.e., no evidence taken, no testimony, no significant legal argument, and no disposition, including plea bargaining), provided, however, no more than five hours of substituted attorney time may occur or be paid in each case;
  6. Uncompleted phone calls;
  7. Time spent appealing our payment decisions.


  1. Office overhead, such as in-office photocopying (except as noted above), secretarial and paralegal time, local telephone calls, local in-office faxing, and postage (except as noted above);
  2. Duplication of the case file;
  3. Hotel or meals without advance approval;
  4. Expert, investigative or other attorney services incurred without advance approval by the SPD;
  5. Transcript preparation fees which are payable by the state or county (e.g. state appeals);
  6. Process service fees without advance approval;
  7. Witness and court filing fees;
  8. Client transportation;
  9. Costs associated with an appeal of our payment decisions;
  10. Cost to purchase clothing for clients.

Invoice Auditing

All invoices are audited for reasonableness.  "Reasonable hours" are those hours required by an experienced, prudent and competent practitioner to provide effective assistance of counsel in the assigned case. The SPD may require additional information regarding bills that are significantly higher than the average for the case type.  All invoices are also audited for required documentation and approvals, to insure that non-reimbursable time or expenses have not been billed, and that time totals and expenses totals are accurate. 

Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 977.08(4), the SPD may approve or reject a bill in whole or in part. Should you be dissatisfied with the decision of the SPD regarding your bill, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Public Defender Board. See Wis. Stat. § 977.08(4). The appeal must be filed in writing with the SPD at 315 N. Henry St., 2nd Floor, Madison, WI 53703-3233 within 30 days of receipt of payment. The appeal must include a statement explaining why the attorney believes the adjustment to the bill was inappropriate.

Attorney’s bills are subject to cumulative audits. The SPD will not pay for more than 15 hours in a single day in most instances. Consideration will be given on a case by case basis for exceptional circumstances which may justify payment of more than 15 hours in a single day. Attorneys with days of more than 15 hours will be contacted before any adjustments to payments are made. Attorneys should be prepared to produce contemporaneous time records for the dates in question. The SPD will not pay for more than 2080 hours worked in a calendar year. Please see PD 4. 06. Attorneys who bill more than 2080 hours worked in a calendar year will be contacted before any recoupment is made.

Other types of cumulative audits may be conducted. Audits to check for duplicate travel and other time are routine. Audits of invoices may occur when an attorney has a pattern of high billing, unit billing, or other irregular billing practices. In some instances, the SPD is obligated to report improper billing to the Office of Lawyer Regulation, local prosecutors, or the Department of Justice.