Specificity Required for Attorney’s Fees

When proving up attorney’s fees, a party must submit evidence of both the amount of time spent on the case by the attorneys and the hourly rate for each attorney. But as the Texas Supreme Court reminds us, more specific evidence is required to support an award of attorney’s fees. Long Trusts v. Griffin, No. 11-1021 (Tex. Apr. 25, 2014) (per curiam).

attorney's fees

Although Long Trusts is not a family law case, the requirements for attorney’s fees it sets forth apply to family law cases as well as other types of cases.

The Litigation

In Long Trusts, several individuals sued four trusts in an oil and gas dispute. The individuals won. Their attorneys sought fees under section 38.001(8) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code (for breach of contract) and under section 37.009 of the Texas Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act.

The Attorney’s Fee Evidence

The attorney’s fee affidavit included the number of hours each attorney spent on the case and the hourly rates for the attorneys. It also stated “that the case involved extensive discovery, several pretrial hearings, multiple summary judgment motions, and a four and one-half day trial.” However, the Supreme Court reversed the fee award because “no evidence accompanied the affidavit to inform the trial court [of] the time spent on specific tasks.”

Supporting Attorney’s Fee Awards

Citing El Apple I, Ltd. v. Olivas, 370 S.W.3d 757 (Tex. 2012), the Court stated that when contemporaneous records are no longer available, the attorneys must “reconstruct their work to provide the trial court with the information to meaningfully review the fee request.”

The lesson? Attorneys should keep detailed billing records of what they did, when they did it and how long it took them to do it. Those records should be made a part of an application for attorney’s fees.

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