A very common question I get--and understandably so--is whether I take cases on a contingency. That is, potential clients want to know whether attorneys are willing to work on cases and only get paid a certain percentage upon any potential recovery (usually 33.3%). This is ideal for potential clients as their out-of-pocket expenses to pursue lawsuits are minimal and forces an attorney to work hard to receive any pay for their efforts. The short answer to this commonly-asked question is: "it depends."
In employment law cases, it depends on a number of factors but mostly depends on the value and strength of the case. Unfortunately, not every case of discrimination is going to be worth a lot of money despite the egregious conduct of an employer. As discussed in a previous blog post, it may be harder to get attorneys to take employment law cases on a contingency fee arrangement at the state level before the Equal Rights Division as Governor Scott Walker is expected to sign legislation that repeals a prevailing party's right to punitive and compensatory damages under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). So, for example, if a complainant files a discrimination claim and then "mitigates their damages" by either finding new employment that pays as much or more money or is reinstated by the employer with the exact same pay and working conditions, it could be that such a case before the ERD is not worth very much in damages (money) and an attorney may not be willing to work on a contingency fee arrangement in that situation. However, if a complainant was making a fairly good salary and out of work for, say, a year or more, that case may be extremely valuable and an attorney would be more likely to take such a case on a contingency fee arrangement but it would still depend on the strength of the case.
It is always best to call an attorney to run your case by them so they can attempt to assess the value of the case. Often times potential clients like to "Google" what other plaintiffs and complainants have won in their cases and that is not a good way to value your case as every case's facts are different and not worth the same. It is also not fair to get upset with attorneys if they are not willing to handle your case on a contingency fee arrangement. So, it is best to be patient and call around if you are not happy with the responses you receive but keep in mind that if 9/10 attorneys decline a contingency fee arrangement, that may be telling of your case.