Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Friday, June 22, 2012

Texas Supreme Court Advisory on Attorneys' Fees in TCHRA Cases

A short message to plaintiff's attorneys in TCHRA cases from the Supreme Court: join your defense brethren in "measuring out your life with coffee spoons," i.e. keeping contemporaneous time records of what you do.

Actually Justice Medina's opinion did not reference T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, that was my literary spin, but the message from today's decision El Apple I, LTD. v. Olivas (TX 6.22.12) makes just that point.
Thus, when there is an expectation that the lodestar method will be used to calculate fees, attorneys should document their time much as they would for their own clients, that is, contemporaneous billing records or other documentation recorded reasonably close to the time when the work is performed.
The Court also cast a doubtful eye on the lower court's doubling of the lodestar amount. Although the majority found that because in this case there was no appropriate lodestar, it was too soon to address the validity of the doubling, it gave a general standard to be applied:
We accordingly accept the premise that [a] lodestar presumptively produces a reasonable fee,
but that exceptional circumstances may justify enhancements to the base lodestar. 
But by noting that while state courts are not bound by federal standards, that they "may appropriately consider them," it seems clear that the Court was signaling that such adjustments should be rare.

All of this came about because an award of just over $100,000 to the plaintiff had resulted in an attorneys fees award of $464,000 for the trial of the case with another $99,000 for defending post-judgement motions and appeals.


Reminds me of my non-lawyer friend's attorney joke. Client gets attorney bill with one of the time entries which says, "I thought I saw you but then I realized it wasn't you and it reminded me of your case".... 1/4 hour.
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