How to Recover Attorneys' Fees in Texas

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A complete, step-by-step guide for practicing attorneys to help them win and defeat attorneys' fees claims at trial.

Recovering attorneys' fees can no longer be an afterthought for trial lawyers and their clients. Today, the ability to recover attorneys' fees may be the deciding factor in whether or not to file a lawsuit and almost always plays a critical role in the decision to settle or try a case. In fact, it is no longer unusual for an attorneys' fees recovery to exceed actual damages.

Mindful of this change in the attorneys' fees landscape, attorneys' fees experts Trey Cox and Jason Dennis have authored How to Recover Attorneys' Fees in Texas -- a complete, step-by-step guide for practicing attorneys to help them win and defeat attorneys' fees claims at trial.

Additional Information
SKU TFEES20
Division Name Texas Lawyer
Volumes 0
Product Types Books
Brand Texas Lawyer
Publication Date September 28, 2019
Jurisdiction Texas
ISBN 978-1-62881-639-6
Page Count 470
Edition 7
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Jason Dennis

Jason Dennis is a partner at Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox, LLP, a litigation boutique in Dallas, Texas. He has extensive trial and appellate experience in state and federal courts in Texas representing a diverse group of clients from Fortune 500 companies to bankruptcy trustees. He is on the faculty of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and has taught trial advocacy at Southern Methodist University. He has been designated as a Master Advocate by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. Jason obtained both a J.D. with honors and an I.M.B.A. from the University of South Carolina. Before beginning his private practice, Jason clerked in the Eastern District of Virginia and on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Trey Cox
Trey Cox is with Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst, LLP, a litigation boutique in Dallas, Texas. His jury trial experience and courtroom success have earned him the distinction of being Board Certified as a Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Trey represents Fortune 500 corporations, entrepreneurs and leading firms in a wide array of industries. His dedication to his clients and his winning track record have repeatedly earned him recognition as a top trial lawyer in the country. He serves on the faculty of Southern Methodist University Law School and the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. He has lectured throughout the country, and authored numerous legal articles, white papers, and books, including How to Recover Attorneys' Fees in Texas.  |Trey received a B.A. magna cum laude from Washington & Lee University and his J.D. with honors from the University of Virginia School of Law

TABLE OF CONTENTS 

 

CHAPTER 1 — THE FOUNDATION............................................ 1

1-1     Legal Bases for Recovering Attorneys’ Fees.......................... 1

1-2     Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees by Contract.............................. 2

1-3     Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees by Statute................................. 3

1-4     Chapter 38............................................................................. 3

1-5     Declaratory Judgment Act...................................................... 6

1-6     DTPA..................................................................................... 7

1-7     Other Common Statutes......................................................... 8

1-8     Recovering Attorneys’ Fees in Class Actions......................... 9

1-9    
Recovering Attorneys’ Fees in Equity: Common Fund Litigation and Attorneys’ Fees as Substantive Damages          10

1-10  
Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees Based on Litigation
in Bad Faith and Frivolous or Meritless Lawsuits........................... 11

1-11   Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 91a...................................... 13

1-12   Anti-SLAPP Suits................................................................. 14

1-13   Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees After Settlement Offer........... 15

 

CHAPTER 2 — THE  BASIC LEGAL REQUIREMENTS.......... 17

 

2-1     Burden of Proof and Legal Standard.................................... 17

2-2     Prevailing Party.................................................................... 18

2-3     Mandatory and Discretionary Awards.................................. 21

2-4     Procedural Requirements..................................................... 22

2-5     Procedural Requirements: Written Contract.......................... 23

2-6     Procedural Requirements: Presentment................................ 24

2-7     Reasonable Attorneys’ Fees in Texas................................... 26

2-8     Andersen Factors.................................................................. 27

2-9     Expert Testimony................................................................. 29

2-10  
Two Ways of Calculating Attorneys’ Fees in Class Action Suits: The Percentage Method in Common Fraud
Cases and The Lodestar—Calculation and Adjustment.................. 30

2-11   Lodestar Calculations........................................................... 30

2-12  
Lodestar Not Relevant Where Parties Agree
to Different Measure...................................................................... 33

2-13   Paralegal Time “Yes,” Clerical Time “No”........................... 34

2-14   Segregation of Fees: Segregating Your Damages.................. 35

2-15   Segregation of Fees: Inexorably Intertwined Damages......... 36

2-16   Segregation of Fees: Defending Against Segregation............ 38

 

CHAPTER 3 — PROVING UP ATTORNEYS’ FEES: THE ROHRMOOS CASE   41

 

3-1     Introduction......................................................................... 41

3-2     Elements of an Attorneys’ Fees Claim................................. 43

          3-2.1     Legally Authorized.................................................. 43

          3-2.2     Reasonable and Necessary...................................... 44

CHAPTER 4 — The Use of the Lodestar
Calculation Method to Determine the Reasonableness of Attorneys’ Fees in Texas.......................................................................................... 47

 

4-1     Calculating the Lodestar....................................................... 47

4-2     Proving Reasonable Hours Billed......................................... 48

4-3     Proving a Reasonable Hourly Rate....................................... 52

4-4     Adjusting the Lodestar......................................................... 52

4-5     Conclusion........................................................................... 53

 

CHAPTER 5 — SIX PRE-FILING AND
PLEADING STEPS....................................................................... 55

 

5-1     Step 1: Get an Engagement Letter......................................... 55

5-2     Step 2: Time Keeping........................................................... 56

          5-2.1     Audience for Invoices............................................. 57

          5-2.2     Keeping Good Time Records—
                       Purpose & Value..................................................... 58

          5-2.3     How to Redact Invoices.......................................... 64

          5-2.4     Billing Issues........................................................... 67

5-3     Step 3: Think About Segregation.......................................... 69

5-4     Step 4: Review Your Bills.................................................... 70

5-5     Step 5: Plead for Attorneys’ Fees......................................... 71

5-6     Step 6: Make a Demand for Attorneys’ Fees........................ 72

CHAPTER 6 — SELECTING YOUR EXPERT......................... 75

 

6-1     Locating the Expert.............................................................. 75

6-2     Communicative Skills.......................................................... 76

6-3     Credibility............................................................................ 76

6-4     Time & Availability............................................................. 78

6-5     Attitude................................................................................ 78

6-6     In-House Fees Expert........................................................... 78

6-7     Experience Matters............................................................... 79

6-8     Initial Conference................................................................ 80

6-9     Compensating Your Expert.................................................. 82

6-10   Written Agreement with the Expert...................................... 83

6-11   Controlling Expert Witness Costs......................................... 84

 

CHAPTER 7 — THE DISCOVERY PROCESS.......................... 87

 

7-1     What Discovery Do You Need?........................................... 87

7-2     Request for Disclosure......................................................... 88

7-3     Expert Designations and Reports.......................................... 89

7-4     Other Written Discovery...................................................... 90

7-5     Deposition or No Deposition................................................ 94

7-6     Preparing Your Expert Witness............................................ 95

7-7     Deposition of an Expert Witness.......................................... 96

7-8     Obligation to Supplement................................................... 101

7-9     Discoverability of Defendant’s Attorneys’ Fees................. 103

 

CHAPTER 8 — ASSEMBLING YOUR EVIDENCE............... 105

 

8-1    
Five Basic Documents You Need to Prove Your
Attorneys’ Fees............................................................................ 105

8-2     Preparing Your Expert to Testify........................................ 109

          8-2.1     Preliminary Meeting.............................................. 109

          8-2.2     Updating Information............................................ 110

          8-2.3     Documents Brought to Court................................. 111

          8-2.4     Pretrial Drill........................................................... 111

8-3     Organizing Your Trial Presentation.................................... 114

          8-3.1     Mapping Out Your Expert’s Testimony................. 114

          8-3.2    
Timing: Presentation of Your Expert’s
Key Points      115

 

CHAPTER 9 — PRESENTING ATTORNEYS’
FEES AT TRIAL........................................................................ 117

 

9-1     Opening Statement............................................................. 117

9-2     Presenting Attorneys’ Fees by Testimony........................... 118

          9-2.1     Before Your Expert Takes the Stand..................... 118

          9-2.2     Timing: Introducing Your Expert.......................... 118

          9-2.3     Organizing Your Direct......................................... 119

          9-2.4     Qualifying Your Expert in Trial............................ 119

          9-2.5     Stipulation as to Expert’s Qualifications................ 120

          9-2.6     Establishing the Expert’s Area of Expertise........... 120

          9-2.7     Basis of the Expert Opinion.................................. 122

9-3     Presenting Your Expert’s Opinion...................................... 123

9-4     Demonstrative Evidence.................................................... 127

          9-4.1     Admissibility of Demonstrative Evidence............. 128

          9-4.2    
Foundation Requirements of
Demonstrative Evidence............................................................... 129

          9-4.3    
Summary Evidence: Demonstrative
Exhibits and Rule 1006................................................................ 130

          9-4.4     Objections to Demonstrative Evidence.................. 132

9-5     Expert Testimony in Closing Argument.............................. 132

 

CHAPTER 10 — ATTACKING EXPERTS AT TRIAL........... 135

 

10-1   Cross-Examination of Your Expert.................................... 135

10-2   Attacking Opposing Counsel’s Expert................................ 135

          10-2.1   Pretrial Attack....................................................... 135

          10-2.2   Attacking at Trial................................................... 137

10-3   Objections to Direct Testimony.......................................... 138

10-4   Cross-Examination of Opposing Party’s Expert................. 139

 

CHAPTER 11 —  JUDGES’ THOUGHTS................................ 141

 

11-1   What is the best way to present attorneys’ fees?................ 141

11-2  
What is the best attorneys’ fees presentation
you have seen?............................................................................. 142

11-3  
What are the worst mistakes you have seen attorneys
make in presenting attorneys’ fees?.............................................. 143

11-4  
Is it possible to recover more in attorneys’ fees than
your claimed amount, and how do juries react to that?................. 145

11-5  
What would you advise an attorney deciding whether to present fees to the judge or jury?     145

11-6  
Have you seen juries use attorneys’ fees to
“split the baby”?........................................................................... 146

11-7  
What do you think about a lawyer being the fees
expert in his own case?................................................................ 147

11-8  
Any tips you can offer for the best way to maintain time records to avoid the mistakes you have seen?        148

11-9  
What have you seen employed as the most effective cross-examination of an expert?           148

11-10
When you are the fact-finder, what has caused you to
reduce a fee request?.................................................................... 149

11-11
What would you advise attorneys to watch out for
when segregating fees?................................................................. 150

11-12
What are your thoughts on attorneys’ fees as sanctions?
Would you rather an attorney ask for the award and
then provide support after you make a decision or just
submit it all up front?................................................................... 150

11-13
Sometimes attorney’s fees exceed actual damages....................... 151

11-14
Any tips you would offer practitioners in dealing with attorneys’ fees?          151

 

CHAPTER 12 — IMPORTANT CASES: Collection Of Attorneys’ Fees In Texas 153

 

12-1   Leading Cases.................................................................... 153

12-2   Recent Cases...................................................................... 161

          12-2.1   Texas Supreme Court............................................ 161

          12-2.2   Texas Court of Appeals........................................ 166

12-3   Pre-2016 Case Summaries.................................................. 175

          12-3.1   Texas Supreme Court............................................ 175

          12-3.2   Texas Courts of Appeal........................................ 177

 

APPENDIX................................................................................. 199

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